Are these lads too bad to go to school?

As teachers in Nottingham prepare to strike rather than teach a 13-year-old boy, Fran Abrams talks to the pupil concerned and two more who have been excluded from school
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Richard Wilding is eating a plate of chips and rifling through a pile of papers, looking for a good school report he once had. In the living room of his parents' Nottingham council house the television is on, the dog is barking sporadically, mum is on the telephone and a collection of neighbours and siblings are talking animatedly.

The scene, if chaotic, is not an unusual one but this week the Wildings were marked out, perhaps for ever, as different.

Richard, aged, 13, was branded a lout and a thug after staff at his school threatened to strike rather than teach him, alleging that he had been involved in more than 30 violent and disruptive incidents in less than two terms. His school, Glaisdale comprehensive, permanently excluded him in February only to have the decision overturned by an independent appeals tribunal.

The news that 20 of its 38 staff were preparing to strike and that the rest were likely to refuse to teach Richard prompted some media digging into his background. There was talk of a problem family, and reference to the fact that his older brother, 14-year-old Robert, has already been excluded from Glaisdale. There was more: 10-year-old Raymond is out of school though his mother does not want to discuss the reasons, and eight- year-old Ricky is on his third primary school.

But the Wildings are determined to keep Richard in the school of their choice. Staff at Glaisdale, particularly the majority who are in the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, are equally determined that he should not be allowed to disrupt any more lessons.

The case highlights growing tension over disruptive pupils. The NAS/UWT was involved in 52 disputes last year in which staff refused to teach a child, and the number is running at six per month this year. Strikes are rare, but the union's increasingly radical stance on the issue may yet lead to them becoming more common.

'I knocked him out with my fist'

James Crofts, aged seven, has been withdrawn from two schools in Nottingham by his parents. He left the second three months ago after being threatened with exclusion. He says other children bullied him because he had speech problems after falling at school and cutting his tongue.

At my first school my teacher assaulted me. She grabbed me by the collar and slung me across the room. My button came off and I had carpet burn on my knees. I was cleaning up and she told me to do something. I tried to explain that I was cleaning up and she grabbed me. My mum and dad came into school, but the teacher said she would not have done that.

She used to start me off on some work and then leave me to it. I would ask for help but she would tell me to hang on a minute. She used to annoy me. She used to say, "Why are you standing there?" I would say I wanted some help. I couldn't talk properly at the time. She couldn't understand me and she used to tell me to wait.

There were three kids bullying me - they were seven when I was six. I went to the teacher and she said she'd have a word with them but she didn't.

I went to another school. I liked it a bit but the teachers had been talking to my other teacher. They were saying she didn't assault me. They said I was two years behind with my work.

At playtime the kids used to bully me. Dad said I should stand up for myself. So then my mate hit one of the lads and knocked his tooth out because he had been teasing me. Then I knocked him out with my fist, and he was bigger than me. The school were very cross. I wasn't allowed to go out at lunchtime. They said there were other kids fighting with me. I was upset. I used to have lots of mates and I couldn't play with them.

One day a kid tripped over my foot. He said I kicked him but I didn't. I said it was an accident but they kept telling me to shut up. So I told the teacher to shut up.

Now my mum teaches me. I do cooking and reading and writing, and maths. I like it better. I don't miss my friends because I have my mates at home. I don't want to go back. I just want my mum to teach me at home."

'When I start something, I finish it. I just keep hitting them'

Richard Wilding (left) is 13 and has been excluded from Glaisdale Comprehensive School in Nottingham after 30 alleged violent or disruptive incidents. He has been re-admitted to school on appeal provoking a strike threat by teachers.

"I went to three different primary schools but mum took me out because she thought I wasn't getting the right education. At my first school, Melbury, some of the teachers were all right but some weren't. When I was about eight we had an incident where I hit someone over the head with a brick. He was about to hit my brother with it, so I took it and hit him on the head. I got excluded for that but I went back.

Then one day I was eating my dinner and they refused to give me any more luncheon meat because I had some on my plate. I said if I can't have it, nobody can have it so I gobbed on it and they tried to force me to eat it all. My dad came and stopped them and told them to give me my pudding. After that I left and went to Portland. I don't remember much about that. Then I moved to Seagrave and I really liked it.

The teachers were helping me and the head was, too. I got on with the other kids. I had a few problems at first but it was OK. I got a really good report.

I was there for a year and I had a one-to-one support teacher. When I went to Glaisdale I liked it at first but I had a problem with one of the teachers. I did OK at maths but I have some problems with spelling and doing French and English.

One day I threatened to throw a snowball at a teacher - I threw it and it missed. They wanted to exclude me for two days for that but in the end they didn't.

Then I got excluded for five days and went back but I got excluded again. Sometimes other pupils started the trouble but sometimes I did. When I start something I finish it. I just keep hitting them. I think what I should do is to find a room to go to so I can calm down.

When I got excluded again Mum kept sending me to school. I didn't cause any trouble but they called the police. The last time I got excluded I was unhappy because someone in my family had died. I was in a bad mood after I got the message and I got sent to the special unit after I threatened another pupil. When I got there I told the teacher I would put him in a cardboard box. They told me to write a report about it but I didn't. I was just sitting in the staffroom and I had enough. Another teacher came to take me to his room but I walked out. That was when I was permanently excluded. I just hung around the shops for the rest of the day because my mum and dad were away.

I wasn't upset much but I missed my friends. I didn't think I'd done anything bad enough to be excluded - there were other boys who were worse than me.

I go to the unit on Wednesdays It isn't a full-time unit but if it was I'd like to go. You can do cooking but you don't have to bring the ingredients and you go on trips and things. There's only four children including me when I go.

It isn't fair, what they've done. The teachers can handle me. I hope I can get back to normal - I do think I need to change, to do as I'm told and help the teachers."

'I strangled him by pulling his tie'

David, a 14-year-old Afro-Caribbean boy, was excluded from a West London comprehensive school last June after getting into a fight with another pupil who racially abused him. He has not been able to find another school place and is now on a mechanics course run by the police.

"My primary school was all right, but I used to get in trouble because I am dyslexic. They never had the equipment I needed to help me, so I disrupted the class. But that didn't happen much there. There were much smaller classes and sometimes the teacher used to come in and teach two of us.

But my secondary school started to get boring. When the other kids didn't know me it was OK but later they would talk to me when I was sitting down doing my work. Then I would answer back and I would be in trouble with the teacher.

Sometimes the teacher would write on the blackboard. I couldn't write at the same speed as everybody else so I couldn't keep up. I would get into an argument with her and get sent out of the room.

The reason why I got expelled was because this boy was being racist to me.

I strangled him by pulling his tie. Then I let him go because I was late for my lessons. He carried on as I turned away, calling me a nigger. So I grabbed him and pulled him by the tie again, and he went crying to the teacher.

I explained and they kept me in the office for the rest of the day. Then they told me I was expelled.

I am still looking for another school. Most of them say they will send an application form but they don't.

Being out of school has already damaged my education. If I got into a school tomorrow everyone would be ahead of me and I would have to cut all that I'd missed and just carry on, so I wouldn't know as much as they did.

I think the teachers just didn't like me. When they used to shout at me I used to shout back and they didn't like kids answering back. I calmed down in year eight but they just carried on the same. But I think I will find a place eventually and settle down. I won't get into any more trouble.