More power for schools to block disruptive pupils

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The Independent Online
Ministers are planning to make it more difficult for families of disruptive pupils to force schools to take them back, after teachers twice threatened action over disruptive pupils.

As the family of one boy threatened legal action to clear his name, education officials said they were considering legislation to make it more difficult for an appeals panel to overturn a school's decision to expel a pupil.

Richard Wilding, a 13 year-old from Nottingham who was involved in 30 disruptive incidents in two terms, and Graham Cram, a 12 year-old from Tyneside who was alleged to have attacked a teacher, were reinstated by appeals panels after being excluded from school.

In both cases staff threatened to strike if the children returned and in both cases a compromise was eventually reached under which they would be taught in isolation.

Last night a spokesman for Gillian Shephard, the Secretary, of State for Education, said she understood the schools' difficulties even though such cases were not common. "The Government is looking at ways in which the system might be refined to minimise the instances where reinstatement decisions are seriously questionable," she said.

The move, which could be announced within the next few weeks, will form part of a wide-ranging initiative on school discipline disclosed last month.

Mrs Shephard also plans to make it more difficult for parents to refuse permission for their children to be kept in detention, and to allow schools to suspend pupils for longer periods before being forced to permanently exclude them.

Next week David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, will meet officials at the department to press for more radical action. The association wants appeals panels to have legally qualified chairmen and independent members, to have to justify their decisions and to have to take into account the needs of the whole school rather than just the excluded pupil. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which led the action at Glaisdale and Hebburn schools, wants them abolished but the NAHT has not gone that far.

Ministers have been forced into more immediate action on exclusions by recent event. No sooner had Richard Wilding been returned to Glaisdale School in Nottingham than staff at Hebburn Comprehensive on Tyneside threatened to strike over Graham Cram.

The second case was temporarily resolved on Monday but yesterday Graham's father, Peter, said he planned to go to court to clear his son's name. The boy was accused of hitting and kicking a male teacher who tried to prevent him from being trampled by other children while leaving assembly.

Mr Cram said his son's actions were simply a defensive response and that he had been shaken and rugby tackled. "We are getting Graham's name cleared," he added.