Battle to ban 60 children from one school

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The Independent Online
Staff at a school in West Yorkshire are calling for up to 60 of their pupils to be excluded because they say they are out of control. The teachers at the 600-pupil Ridings School in Halifax are voting on possible strike action if the local authority does not step in.

The Ridings was at the centre of a similar argument last month over one of its pupils, Sarah Walker, 13. Staff threatened to strike when she was returned to lessons after being excluded for violence towards a teacher and another pupil.

The head's decision was overturned by an appeals committee but her parents eventually agreed to withdraw her as staff were on the brink of walking out.

Now 31 members of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, who form the great majority of the staff, are threatening action over what they say is a complete breakdown of discipline. Last night both the head, Karen Stansfield, and her deputy were said to have resigned and were expected to go at the end of term.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, would not comment on the number of pupils he wanted to see excluded from the school, but said that if it were necessary to remove 60 to impose proper discipline, it should be done.

Philip Lawrence, the murdered London headteacher, had had to exclude 60 pupils in two years from St George's school in Maida Vale, London, he said. "Why not? If it is good enough for Philip Lawrence it is good enough for elsewhere," he added. "There is a very serious disciplinary situation at this school, and we want the local authority to go in there and resolve it. There are a whole raft of measures which want putting in place."

Mr de Gruchy said he hoped his members would not be forced into all-out strike action but that employment laws made it necessary to ballot them now in order to be able to take action from the end of the month.

A meeting a week ago with the school's governors had not led to an agreement, he said, and local newspapers in Calderdale had since started reporting the story.

Last night, the chair of governors at the school, the Rev Stan Brown, said there was a problem with disruptive behaviour at the school, but that he was disappointed by the stance taken by the teachers.

"I think we have got our fair share of disruptive pupils but it is very unfair that it is being portrayed as though all our kids have got problems," he said. "I am very disappointed that the union are taking this line at this time. We have negotiated with the local authority and resources are being put into the school."

The dispute follows a number of high-profile cases in which members of the NASUWT and other teaching unions have threatened to strike over disruptive pupils.

Last April, staff at Glaisdale Comprehensive in Nottingham threatened action after the parents of Richard Wilding, 13, appealed successfully against his expulsion. A deal was finally struck under which the boy was taught partly in isolation and partly in a special unit.

Last month, the parents of more than 30 children kept them away from Manton junior school in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, in protest at the governors' refusal to let their headteacher expel Matthew Wilson, 10. It also emerged last month that Andrew Eaton, seven, had been awarded legal aid to mount a High Court challenge to his expulsion from Wellacre infants' school in Trafford, Greater Manchester.

School exclusions have been increasing rapidly over the past few years, but while some people attribute the problem to rising disciplinary problems, others say that pressure on teachers has made them less tolerant of difficult pupils.