Teachers' union threatens to strike if violent pupils are not expelled

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The biggest teachers union threatened strike action yesterday if violent pupils are not expelled as teachers' anger about classroom disruption boiled over.

The biggest teachers union threatened strike action yesterday if violent pupils are not expelled as teachers' anger about classroom disruption boiled over.

Tough new guidelines are being sent out by the National Union of Teachers after the case of Marjorie Evans, the head who was cleared on appeal of assaulting an unruly pupil.

Union leaders say heads should expel any pupil that teachers regularly have to restrain physically.

Mrs Evans argued that she had simply used "reasonable restraint" to control the boy, who alleged she assaulted him.

The union's decision to start a high-profile campaign to protect its 202,000 members and their pupils from unruly classmates marks a policy change.

John Bangs, assistant general secretary, did not know if the number of exclusions would increase because of the guidelines. "But the message needs to go out that we are determined to protect our members and to advise them about handling children who are destroying lessons and morale."

He said there had not been an increase in the number of badly behaved children over the last 10 years "but the severity of bad behaviour has got worse - there is a small group of children whose behaviour is worse than in the past".

Mr Bangs stressed that the union would resort to strike action only " in extremis" and would first try action such as refusing to teach pupils who endangered staff and classmates.

The union has also written to David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, saying that teachers should not be automatically suspended because of a pupil's allegation unless sex abuse is involved. Mrs Evans was suspended for 13 months.

This year, 170 of the union's members have been interviewed by the police because pupils made allegations against them, compared with an average of 120 in recent years. About 90 per cent involve no further action. Only three or four end up in court.

Doug McAvoy, the NUT general secretary, said: "When teachers have to restrain pupils, they become vulnerable to false allegations of physical abuse. That can be followed by a prolonged suspension during an investigation which is agonising for the teacher."

The Department for Education said that headteachers already had the power to tackle disruptive pupils. Revised government guidelines issued in the summer allowed heads to expel violent pupils.

Ministers are setting up new "sin bins" where excluded pupils can be educated.

A spokesman said: "There are clearly cases where teachers are abusing children in schools. There are also cases where wholly false allegations are made. Our working party is looking at these issues."

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