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Teacher's racy novel 'to encourage pupils to read'

Press Association,Alison Kershaw
Tuesday 07 July 2009 12:35 BST

An English teacher sacked after publishing a racy novel about her pupils online defended the book today, saying it was written to encourage a group of teenage boys to read.

Leonora Rustamova, a teacher at Calder High School in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, was dismissed after Stop! Don't Read This appeared on a self-publishing website.

The novel contained pupils' real names and included references to under-age drinking, truancy and drugs, and scenes of a sexual nature, as well as likening students to "gorgeous Mr Gay UK finalists".

Ms Rustamova, 39 - nicknamed Miss Rusty by pupils - insisted today that she had written the book at the request of a group of five disaffected Year 11 boys who she had been taking for English classes.

In her first interview since her dismissal, Ms Rustamova told Victoria Derbyshire's programme on BBC Radio 5 Live:

"I tried to get them interested in all sorts of books and they refused to get involved, they were far too disaffected.

"I asked what they would listen to and they said if I wrote a story about them.

"It was terrifying to write a story about the most difficult audience in the world."

The first novel Ms Rustamova penned was called the Woodland Massacre, she said. It was about woodland animals and the boys were "offended" by it.

"It got to the stage, after trying all the usual sorts of books to engage them that I had to try something different," she said.

"I really wanted them to know they were an important group and that I was prepared to bend over backwards to get them involved."

"They were really interested in the story from the start, it's kind of interesting to read something that's written about them. I did try to get inside their heads, trying to explain how they were perceived in school.

"Because I didn't know them very well, I had to go on national problems for students, like truancy and smoking.

"There is a lot of swearing in it, but no more than your average junior yard playground in school."

The novel charted the exploits of Ms Rustamova's pupils as they uncovered a drug den beneath the school.

She reportedly described one pupil fantasising about her, and wrote: "It's getting harder and harder to see them just as kids."

Ms Rustamova said the racy material was necessary in order to appeal to the boys.

She told the BBC: "In their being a difficult audience, the material had to be quite risque to give them an excuse to listen to it.

"To 16-year-old boys that are disaffected, story time is for small children."

Ms Rustamova insisted that the book was "mistakenly" published online, after her husband found a website that would print copies which could be given to the boys when they left school.

"It was a simple internet mistake, it was never intended to go on the internet, to be a published work. It was written for an audience of five."

She said she was "stunned" when she was suspended.

One of the students, 17-year-old Travis, told the BBC he thought the book was "excellent".

"It was a fairly accurate description all in all, it was a really good book and got us to read, it did work."

Ms Rustamova's case has now been referred to the General Teaching Council for England.

Paul Brennan, acting group director for children and young people at Calderdale Council said: "The safety and well being of all children and young people in schools is paramount. All adults working with them have a duty to adhere to professional standards of practice.

"This has been a difficult time for the whole school community. It is my hope that the pupils and staff of Calder High can now focus their full attention on their studies and continue to thrive and succeed in the future."

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