`Schools cannot cope with violent pupils'

Education conferences: Union demands return to methods of 15 years ago to cope with disruptive children
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The Independent Online
FRAN ABRAMS

Education Correspondent

Violent pupils should be removed from classrooms by reopening special schools which have been closed in the past 15 years, a teachers' union conference was told yesterday.

Disruption had escalated so far that some pupils arriving at nursery on their first day were out of control and could not be taught, the union's leader said.

More than 300 special schools have closed since 1979 under a policy of increased integration. The Warnock Report on special educational needs, which was backed up by legislation in 1981, called for such pupils to be brought back into mainstream education rather than being kept apart.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference, in Glasgow, was told the move had placed intolerable strain on teachers.

Chris Keates, a member of the union's executive, said that neither teachers, the children concerned nor the other pupils benefited.

Schools did not have the resources to deal with the problems and were often unable to provide enough specialist help for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Local authorities which had closed special schools, reducing their numbers from 1,600 in 1979 to less than 1,300, were often trying to cut costs, she said.

Units for disturbed children in mainstream schools were fraught with difficulties, she said. Decisions on which children to admit might be taken out of a school's hands, the pupils might cause problems at break times and it might be difficult to exclude them if they were impossible to handle.

Large classes, under-funding and a surfeit of government initiatives had made it impossible for mainstream schools to cope, she added. "Advocating support and specialist provision is not about abandoning children. It is about recognising the very special needs these pupils have and establishing the most appropriate provision to address both needs," she said.

Bob Ball, a delegate from Hampshire, said that his county had recently had a school ruled failing by inspectors. One-third of the pupils taking GCSE the previous year had been excluded from other schools in the county. "What chance did the teachers in that school stand? Those pupils should not have been there," he said.

A motion to the conference, likely to be passed today, calls for the union to oppose the concept of "inclusive" education.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said schools could not be blamed when children who arrived for their first day at nursery school beat up fellow pupils and refused to take any notice of their teachers. These children must be excluded. "I have to live in the real world," he said. "Schools are not social institutions, they are being forced to adopt a role they simply cannot cope with."

t Teachers and pupils at a school in Bedfordshire were horrified to find live maggots falling from the classroom ceiling on to their heads, the conference was told.

Pigeons had become trapped in the roof at Ashton Middle school in Dunstable and had died there, said Ray Mellor, a secondary teacher. The incident two years ago highlighted the need for school building regulations which had been dropped by the Government, he said.

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