Expelled boy vows to mend his ways

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The Independent Online

Dressed in a dark blue suit, the 16-year-old looked unfazed as he stood in Southampton County Court, even vowing to improve his behaviour if Marlborough College would take him back.

Yesterday, the school had its turn to detail its allegations against the boy whose father Russell, 49, a property restorer, has dragged it into court in the first legal challenge to a private school's right to expel students. Rhys, the school said, was the laziest and worst behaved pupil that anyone could remember, laying a catalogue of offences at his young feet including bullying other pupils, exposing himself, drinking, smoking and having a girl in his room. His return to the school, the headmaster said, would even have a devastating effect on staff morale.

What's more, the £21,900-a-year school also alleged that Rhys's father had tried to "bribe" his son's roommate by offering him to pay him £500 to ensure his son "obtained good academic results" that term.

Rhys argued he had never committed any offence that deserved expulsion but pledged to improve if he was allowed to return. "I would be working a lot harder and also I would enjoy the work more because I would be studying more interesting subjects," he told deputy circuit judge Anthony Thompson. "My behaviour would improve with the work."

He received 398 punishments during his three years at the school but most were for relatively minor offences such as untidiness, lateness and not wearing the correct school uniform.

"I certainly wasn't under the impression that if it were to continue I would be expelled for it," Rhys said.

Nicholas Sampson, the master of Marlborough College, told the court that as well as having the worst record for minor offences Rhys had also been "gated" - confined to his house for a week - five times, more than any other pupil. Those more serious offences included smoking, drinking, dying his hair and having a girl in his room. The school argued that, in two weeks, Rhys "picked up more punishments than most would collect in their entire school career" and his behaviour was deteriorating with 203 punishments given during his final year.

In his first year at the school, Rhys was sent home early from a week-long activity holiday in Wales for "persistent ill discipline, including exposing himself, rudeness and swearing" and bullying another pupil.

In his final year he was sent home from a residential visit to an army camp after being caught with cans of lager in his rucksack.

Mr Sampson told the court it would be impossible for Rhys to return as his teachers no longer wanted him in their lessons. "I believe Rhys's return would have a devastating effect on staff morale. It would appear we had lost control of our entrance policy and the management were unable to back up the disciplinary decisions made by staff."

Niall Hamilton, Rhys's housemaster at Marlborough College, said allowing Rhys to return would only encourage him in his belief that he was beyond the law.

The case continues.