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Dispute ends at troubled school

A dispute at the school which excluded and then reinstated Sarah Briggs has been resolved, writes Neil Sears.

When the 15-year-old, suspended for criticising her school in the local press, returned for the autumn term at Queen Elizabeth's in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, she found staff were contesting the new timetable with the headteacher.

The teachers had arranged an emergency meeting on the first day of term to discuss their concerns.

After negotiations the dispute ended when head Nicola Atkin agreed to call in a Nottinghamshire County Council inspector to help redraw the timetable.

Queen Elizabeth's first hit the headlines in the summer after Sarah Briggs complained to the Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser that regular staff absences were damaging her education.

The school claimed that the absences - which were mentioned in last year's Office for Standards in Education report - were no longer a problem. An apology was demanded, but when Sarah refused to give one she was excluded for bringing the school into disrepute.

Governors agreed to reinstate her following a media outcry and a call by school standards minister Stephen Byers for a report on the school.

Queen Elizabeth's second burst of media attention followed staff complaints to a teaching union about poor management. Staff said they were dismayed to find the timetable unworkable.

Brian Helliwell, area representative for the National Union of Teachers, said: "The whole thing was chaotic. The timetable was described to me as just a big piece of paper which they just stuck to other pieces of paper like a jigsaw. "

Staff were particularly worried because OFSTED inspectors are to visit later this term to see if Queen Elizabeth's is a failing school.

A council spokesman said: "The headteacher and her senior management staff met the teachers to go over their concerns and it was agreed that the timetable would be revised, and that would be done with the help of an inspector from the education authority."

Head Mrs Atkin said the school was returning to normal and that Sarah Briggs had "settled in well".

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