School forced to close by row over 'racist' expulsion: A dispute has broken out over the decision to isolate a boy aged 10 who was expelled last January, then reinstated compulsorily. Mary Braid reports

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The Independent Online
TWO days of demonstrations against the 'racist' expulsion of a 10-year-old black pupil forced a Birmingham junior school to close down yesterday. Isa Stewart was expelled by Westminster Junior School, Handsworth, in January after a playground incident in which a teacher's hand was cut.

For the past four months he has received no education. In March his mother Pauline, 29, won her appeal against the school's decision. Birmingham City Council ruled that Westminster should reinstate him. The school later lost its appeal to an independent panel to revoke the council ruling.

Ten days ago Westminster was forced to take Isa back but refused to allow him to be taught with other children. He spent the first week sitting in the corridor outside the headmaster's office. The school is appealing to John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, to uphold its original decision.

Isa's isolation prompted demonstrations by parents, organised by the local African People's Education Group. The organisation is angry at the disproportionate number of black pupils, particularly boys, being expelled from Birmingham schools.

'This is not an isolated case,' Maxine Tapper, the group's founder, said. 'It's just another attempt to make another African boy educationally subnormal.'

Ms Tapper vowed that there would be more demonstrations if the situation was not satisfactorily resolved when Westminster reopens its gates on Monday.

David Neale, Westminster's headteacher, is refusing to comment before Mr Patten hears the appeal. But Chris Keates, general secretary of the Birmingham branch of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'Teachers have done everything possible but they have come to the conclusion that the level of disruption caused by this child is harming his education and that of his classmates.'

Birmingham council said the school decided to close to 'create some breathing space' and the council was working hard to resolve the dispute, but the legal position was 'murky'. The council is concerned at the disproportionate number of black boys being expelled from school. The Government says it shares that concern. Between 1990 and 1992 Afro- Caribbeans represented more than 8 per cent of the 6,700 expulsions from British schools yet they made up 2 per cent of the school population.

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