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Euro law may lead to more pupil spats

THE European Convention on Human Rights that has already dealt a blow to temporary judges and traffic cameras could be deployed by disgruntled pupils and parents, a top educational lawyer has warned.

Scotland has so far resisted any legal challenge by pupils who feel their schooling has failed them but European law could open fresh avenues, particularly over special educational needs.

Legislation that comes into effect in October could have profound implications, Colin Moodie, a solicitor with Falkirk Council and former senior legal adviser to the Scottish Child Law Centre, told secondary heads at their spring conference in Dunfermline.

"The legislation may be a hook for some people on which to hang certain kinds of litigation against schools and local authorities. It may become easier to sue education authorities in the future," Mr Moodie cautioned.

The European legislation also sets out parents' rghts over religious and philosophical beliefs, an area that could be contentious with the arguments over the repeal of Section 2A and the debate about sex education.

The legislation also outlaws degrading treatment or punishment, although Mr Moodie suggested that was unlikely to be a problem in a Scottish school. "It's not for trivial complaints and certain thresholds must be met."

Donald Matheson, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland and head of Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh, called for a reassessment of pupil and parent rights and responsibilities. Teachers' views were being overlooked and they were increasingly threatened with litigation.

"There is not enough done to establish responsibilities for pupils and parents. We need to keep a balance and we can see the day where schools will be acting out of fear rather than the best interests of young people," Mr Matheson said.

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