More parents support 'unruly pupil' protest over school's 'unruly' pupil

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Parents who have withdrawn nearly 50 children from school over special treatment for a disruptive pupil have suspended their protests after the intervention of a local MP.

Labour's Joe Ashton today plans to ask education secretary Gillian Shephard to meet parents and teachers at Manton Junior School, Worksop, Notts, in a bid to resolve the deadlock over 10-year-old Matthew Wilson.

After meeting parents and staff yesterday, Mr Ashton said: "This has become a test case. It has got to go back to the minister."

After his intervention, some of the parents who withdrew children from school for a second day yesterday said they would return them today.

School governors have twice overruled a decision by Bill Skelly, the head, to have the boy expelled. More than 200 parents have signed a petition calling for Matthew's expulsion and for the governors to resign.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, has written to Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, asking her to intervene. So far she has refused to do so. She has the power to direct the authority or the governors if she considers they have acted unreasonably.

Mr de Gruchy's letter also raised the question of reports that governors have visited Matthew's home. He said it was "quite inappropriate" for the governors to have such a close relationship with the family.

Eileen Bennett, chair of the school's governors, said the education authority should have made public its support for their decision to keep the boy in school. The parents had not been told the whole story.

"We have been stitched up. The local education authority keeps pushing us to the front to deal with it and we need them to come out and say where they stand," she said.

But Matthew's mother, Pamela Cliffe, says he is not worse than many other children. She said: "I am not taking him away from that school. I can't win, no matter what I do. If I take him to another school all the parents at the other school will say they don't want him either." She said she had only agreed to the one-to-one tuition to stop the strike. "He is not as bad as they are making out."

The authority is paying about pounds 14,000 a year for a supply teacher to teach Matthew separately from other children.

A parent, Frances Lawrence, said: "Why should our children suffer for the sake of this one boy? I am hoping that all parents will support us today in keeping their children away. Otherwise our children are going to lose out in terms of books and trips. Why should he get preferential treatment?"

Parents met Mr Skelly on Monday evening. He promised to arrange further meetings with the local authority.

Another parent, Karen Bearham, said Matthew had a right to education. "He is a normal child," she said. "He may not be perfect. He is only a 10-year-old boy."

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