Teachers to strike over lessons for violent boy

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The Independent Online
Teachers at a Nottingham comprehensive will go on indefinite strike tomorrow in their dispute over the expulsion of a disruptive pupil after talks aimed at averting the stoppage ended without agreement.

Ministers responded to the crisis at Glaisdale School last night by saying that parents of the most disruptive children might lose their right to appeal against school expulsions.

The controversy arose after an appeals panel ordered the return of thirteen-year-old Richard Wilding to lessons. Staff at his school say that Richard had been involved in more than 30 violent and disruptive incidents in less than two terms.

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, urged teachers at the school not to strike, but said that pupils who were excluded more than once might forfeit their rights.

Twenty of the 38 staff at Glaisdale School, which was recently praised by the Labour Party for its work with disenchanted 14- year-olds, are to stop work after the local authority stressed its determination to see Richard return to classes.

Officials of the National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers who met the authority yesterday said that the negotiations had run out of time, but they hoped a solution could be found soon.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the union, said: "Maybe the parents can be persuaded to do the sensible thing, because it is obvious there has been a total breakdown in the relationship between the pupil and the school.

"All we are doing is striking in defence of sensible discipline. If the parents were to announce they have decided to withdraw their child, it might still be in time to prevent the strike."

He said that the boy should be in a special school.

It had seemed that the strike might be called off after Richard's parents, Rita and Philip Wilding, agreed with the school's headteacher, David Higgins, on Tuesday that he could be taught in isolation and in a special unit for the time being.

However, staff objected to a further proposal that he should eventually be reintegrated into mainstream classes. The boy had been temporarily excluded from the school three times before being sent home permanently in February this year.

The local authority supported the school's decision, but an independent appeals panel later overturned it.

Since Easter, Richard has been taught alone at the school by a supply teacher and has not been allowed to play with other pupils at break times.

However, Mr de Gruchy claimed that the boy had threatened another pupil with a chair and that he had been allowed to wander around corridors and mix with other pupils.

Last night, the local authority met the National Union of Teachers, which has at least 10 members at the school and has discussed refusing to teach Richard.

Meanwhile, ministers were looking for ways to avoid similar crises. As well as changing the rules on appeals, they may agree to demands by headteachers that they should be allowed to exclude children temporarily for more than 15 days in one year. At present they must permanently exclude a pupil after this period has elapsed.

Mrs Shephard said at a conference in London yesterday to launch the Campaign for Learning: "A balance has to be struck between the interests of parents and their own children and those of other children in the school."

Education, Section Two