NAS-UWT puts class discipline at the top of conference agenda

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The teaching union which waged bitter battles over discipline at the Ridings and three other schools today places classroom disruption at the top of its agenda at the start of its annual conference.

The National Association of Schoolmasters-Union of Women Teachers, which warns that despite four victories it has still to win the discipline war, will demand more support for teachers in dealing with disruptive or violent people.

Delegates at the union's annual conference in Bourne- mouth will today be recommended to accept a report rejecting the principle of keeping as many children as possible in mainstream schools.

The union's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, said last month that up to 100,000 children in ordinary schools were so disruptive that they should be transferred to special schools.

The NAS-UWT highlighted its case for a crackdown on classroom discipline last year during disputes in schools including the Ridings, in Halifax, Calderdale and Manton junior school, in Worksop.

Union members at the Ridings threatened to strike over 60 problem children, while at Manton they called for the exclusion of one pupil. Addressing delegates at the opening of the conference, the incoming president, Barrie Ferguson, urged the Government to be tough on the causes of disruption. It should re-examine the role of local authorities, the appeals panels and governors in the whole process of dealing with badly behaved pupils.

Experience has shown that the normal strategies for keeping order in the classroom had gradually come to mean "nought" to an increasing band of youngsters, Mr Ferguson said. "Now, teachers with a superb teaching style, good classroom organisation, the right body language and good voice modulation are finding that the word `no' is a basis for negotiation with an ever-increasing number of pupils." Protests by NAS-UWT members had proved to be "sensible trade union actions", he said.

Another key theme of the conference will be the workloads being shouldered by classroom teachers. Mr De Gruchy has declared his union will give a new government a year in which to take action to reduce the bureaucracy which is weighing down teachers.

The prime culprits, he says, are time-consuming preparations for inspections by the schools watchdog, Ofsted, and the highly detailed recording and assessment of children's progress demanded under the National Curriculum.

If nothing is done, Mr De Gruchy warns of ballots for industrial actions, including boycott of excess paperwork.

Mr Ferguson said teachers were so enslaved by bureaucracy that they had no time for after-school sports clubs and other activities.

Delegates will vote today on a motion condemning "excessive workload and stress produced by Ofsted inspections".

The NUT conference at the weekend demanded the sacking of the chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, and the abolition of Ofsted.