The 12-year-old who no one wants to teach

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The Independent Online
Strike action by teachers over a disruptive boy at a South Tyneside school was temporarily averted yesterday when leaders of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, local authority officials and school governors agreed that a 12-year-old pupil should continue to stay out of classes. Instead he is to receive one-to-one teaching at the school.

However other teachers' unions suggested that the dispute over Graham Cram had more to do with a membership battle than with the educational needs of the other children at Hebburn school.

South Tyneside council said the agreement was an interim one until the school's governors met to decide his future.

Union leaders said they would ballot their members on strike action again as a precautionary measure. The time limit for action under the previous strike ballot has expired.

Teachers have threatened to go on strike if they have to teach Graham. He was excluded last July after he allegedly assaulted a teacher but this was overturned when his parents went to an appeals panel.

Graham spent yesterday at school for the first time in 10 months. He was taught both alone and with several other pupils by supply teachers, the headteacher, Madelaine Watson, and the deputy head. However, he joined the rest of the school for lunch and at playtime.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "We have struck a blow for the maintenance of good order and defending teachers against violence in schools."

Last month, the union forced the parents of Richard Wilding, another disruptive boy, to back down and agree that their son should be taken out of normal classes.

But yesterday other teachers' unions suggested that the NASUWT's high profile anti-violence campaign was part of a membership drive. "Why threaten to disrupt the education of every other child in the school when all you have to do is to refuse to teach that child? The union is trying to show its macho image," said one union source who did not want to be named.

A spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said its own push for new subscriptions was more straightforward - it has just launched a site on the Internet.

Mr de Gruchy said that there had been disciplinary problems with Graham since he was at primary school. Last July, he added, Graham was leaving assembly when he fell over. He allegedly kicked and punched a teacher who, fearing he might be trampled, tried to rescue him.

Eamonn O'Kane, of the NASUWT, said the two incidents had arisen because parents had been determined to press their cases: "It is not a devious plan," he said.

David Lamb, the Cram family's solicitor, said the family were glad Graham was now able to take up a full timetable again though they wanted him to go back into lessons eventually.

"His needs are presently being met and that is great news, though it ought not to continue indefinitely," he said.

n Parents and relatives have assaulted teachers in nearly one school in seven, according to a survey of 2,000 schools published yesterday.

In one in five schools, parents and older brothers or older pupils from neighbouring schools have attacked pupils. In one in 10 schools intruders have assaulted staff.