Teacher talk

Sue Raynor, 47, is head teacher at Whitton School and Sports College, a comprehensive in Twickenham, south London
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The Independent Online

Should teachers have the right to refuse to teach violent pupils?

Should teachers have the right to refuse to teach violent pupils?

Yes. I take a strict line – violence is not acceptable. I suspend children caught fighting and reinstate them on the condition that they attend anger management sessions with a specially trained teacher. If we had better resources we could look at the root causes of each case. As things are, we have to send out the message that violence is wrong in subjects such as personal social and health education. Parents and the media could do a lot more. Many children spend a lot of time playing violent computer games, for example. I also worry that some children and parents think that children can behave badly in school with impunity.

How do you think that truancy should be tackled?

Getting children to school is the responsibility of parents, but some parents, such as those who are seriously ill, need government help and shouldn't be prosecuted. I think the new truancy patrols and court summonses are the right way to deal with most parents of children who attend only 70 to 80 per cent of the time, and underperform greatly. Schools can only do so much: Ofsted has just said our school is doing all it can. This includes challenging parents if they give feeble excuses for their children's absences. We also reward good attendance with certificates and treats. Many parents think they're entitled to take their children out of school for two weeks a year – that misconception needs to be addressed. But I recognise that the high cost of holidays during peak times are a problem.

What's your biggest concern as a head teacher?

Funding. I feel that the systems for allocating money are not sophisticated enough and thus unfair. For example, my school serves affluent and deprived areas, but Richmond does not benefit from funding streams such as Excellence in Cities. I'm trying to generate income via sponsorship – in September we became a specialist sports college and I secured £50,000 in sponsorship. But this takes me away from what I'm supposed to be doing – raising standards.

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