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Advisers swoop in to keep peace

A primary school likened to a war zone by parents now has almost as many advisers as teachers following a serious collapse of discipline.

Children at Woodlands school in Leeds have thrown chairs at teachers, flung trays at dinner ladies and kicked, shoved, sworn and spat at staff, according to parents. One said: "It's like Beirut."

Education Leeds, the private company which runs the city's education services, has sent 14 advisers into the 300-pupil inner-city school to take classes and support its 18 teachers.

It admitted last week that it had serious concerns about behaviour and standards at Woodlands primary.

A report by the company to the city council said morale among teachers was low and many staff were absent.

"There is still a high level of inappropriate behaviour within the school and staff are reluctant to take responsibility for dealing with this," the report said.

Eight pupils have been excluded for a fixed period so far this year, although that figure represents a substantial reduction from the 45 exclusions last year.

There were particular concerns about key stage 2, where all but one of the eight teachers were absent at one point.

Janice Turner, headteacher, took up the post in September last year, but is now on sick leave. A temporary executive head, Rod Smith, was brought in last month.

Education Leeds said Mr Smith had already increased communication with the parents of unruly pupils, clarified the system of sanctions for misbehaviour and introduced regular assemblies for each key stage group to encourage a sense of community.

Ruth Baldwin, deputy chief executive of Education Leeds, said the measures meant the situation had improved since the report was written.

She said: "The majority of children at the school are well- behaved and want to learn. However, there were some serious issues around individual children exhibiting poor behaviour. Above-average levels of staff absence also had an impact."

An Office for Standards in Education report in 2001 said behaviour and teaching were good, although attendance was poor.

The school declined to comment.

* The entire governing body at a trouble-hit super-school has been disbanded in a last-ditch rescue attempt. The 24 governors quit New College in Leicester after asking education officials to relieve them of their duties. They will be replaced by a 10-strong interim executive board, chosen by Leicester council.

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