Strike threat over 'violent' 12-year-old

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The Independent Online
A 12-year-old boy barred from school 10 months ago for allegedly assaulting a male teacher will return today to a storm of protest.

Members of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers' (NASUWT) at Hebburn Comprehensive, South Tyneside, have refused to teach Graham Cram since the incident they describe as "serious" and are threatening to strike.

The boy's planned return today is expected to coincide with a morning meeting at the school between the NASUWT's general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, and the school governors. Union members at the comprehensive are still adamant they will not teach the youngster .

The furore follows last month's row over Richard Wilding, a 13-year-old special needs pupil who came close to sparking a walk-out by Nottingham teachers. He is now taught at home and in a special unit.

No details have been released of the alleged attack by Graham Cram last July which led to his suspension. But an independent appeals panel ruled in November that he should be allowed back and the school's governors are supporting that decision which is legally binding.

Graham's parents Peter, 39, and Irene, 38, who have consulted a lawyer over the delay, last week rejected a compromise proposal where Graham would have been taught in isolation from other pupils. They said they were pleased he would be returning with friends.

But Mrs Cram said: "He will be going to school tomorrow but what happens from there we don't know. We are afraid the teachers will walk out as Graham walks in but I hope this doesn't happen." Her husband added: "He is not violent and never has been."

However, Mr de Gruchy said his union was seriously concerned and was taking legal advice on whether staff could take immediate strike action.

He called for a re-examination of the policy of closing special schools which had left children with emotional and behavioural difficulties disrupting mainstream teaching. He also said the appeals procedure should be re-examined. "If you have locally managed schools, the schools should be allowed to sort these kind of problems out."

n Philip Wilding, 56, the father of Richard, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack at the family's home in Nottingham at the weekend.