Heads seek to expel children of violent parents

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The Independent Online

Headteachers have demanded the right to expel the children of violent parents in the wake of a rising number of serious assaults in the past few months.

Headteachers have demanded the right to expel the children of violent parents in the wake of a rising number of serious assaults in the past few months.

In the last term, there were at least 50 incidents of assaults or threatened abuse against heads - including death threats being made by a mother in a telephone call to a headteacher's home. Now leaders of the National Association of Head Teachers want new powers to exclude children from school if their parents become aggressive and threaten them.

David Hart, the general secretary of the NAHT, speaking at the union's annual conference in Telford yesterday, said: "The rising level of abuse, threats and assaults by parents towards our members is totally and utter deplorable." He said he believed it was "perfectly proper" to expel a child once a threat had been made but added: "Unfortunately we're not allowed to do that.

"I believe that ... ought to be allowed. The relationship between a family and a head has fundamentally broken down if violence is resorted to and that child deserves a second chance elsewhere."

In the past term, NAHT officers dealt with 54 cases of violence and abuse against heads. In January alone, cases were coming into the union's headquarters at the rate of one every school day - with 10 threats of violence, five assaults on heads, seven cases of verbal aggression and two parents having to be banned from school premises. In addition, there were two cases of pupils assaulting heads.

In one case, the head teacher of a London primary school was telephoned at home by a mother who issued a death threat. Mr Hart said child protection proceedings had been started against her children and the mother had then made threats against both the school and the head.

In another case, a headteacher took out an anti-social behaviour order against a mother - believed to be the first time a school has done this to a parent after threats were made.

John McNally, headteacher of St Bernadette Roman Catholic School in Birmingham, said he had received a spate of abusive telephone calls and the threats being shouted at him from across the road by the woman.

Headteachers' leaders are worried that comments by Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, that she wants to see more "parent power" in the running of schools may give the green light to others to become more aggressive in their dealings with heads.

Leaders of the NAHT said they had dealt with about 300 cases of conflict between heads and parents in the past year - ranging from allegations of assault to complaints about the curriculum. Mr Hart said: "Some parents are unwilling to pursue their complaints by using the existing procedures properly. They use or threaten violence as a first resort. "Governors, local authorities and the police must take the strongest possible action to support headteachers when they are faced not only with threats to themselves but also to their families," he said. In the past, ministers have ruled out expelling the children of violent parents - believing it is wrong "to visit the sins of the parents on their children".

Rachel Voss. Head teacher: 'Threats made me feel my life was unravelling'

Rachel Voss, head of Anthony Curton Church of England Primary School in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, was forced to consider moving home after a family threatened her children.

The parents, who also chased her down the road and made threats against school governors and staff, were upset about one of their children being excluded. Ms Voss said: "I felt as if my life was unravelling in that I might have to move away because of the threats ... A lot of good came out of it. We did get support from the diocese and the local authority ... but I have since heard of people who have had very similar experiences.''

Eli Frankham, 40 at the time, was jailed for 18 weeks for harassment and intimidation at King's Lynn magistrates' court in September last year. His wife, Vanessa, was given 180 hours' community service at a separate hearing.

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