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Heads backed for excluding violent pupils

Governors must take views of heads more seriously in school exclusions cases, says minister. Clare Dean reports

EDUCATION minister Estelle Morris this week publicly backed headteachers for excluding violent and disruptive pupils.

With the two main classroom unions highlighting discipline problems in schools, Ms Morris said she would be writing to governors to underpin guidance to appeals panels urging them not to second-guess exclusion decisions made by heads.

"We want to reduce the number of exclusions but that has never meant that violent children should be in schools," she said.

Her comments came after delegates to the NASUWT conference in Jersey heard a catalogue of horror stories from schools - of pupils carrying knives, beating up classmates and teachers and swearing at staff.

Tony Hardman, NASUWT president, said there had been a four-fold increase in demands for action in individual schools against unruly pupils every month with numbers rising from three to four to 15.

"Even in the most stable areas of the country, teachers are witnessing a dramatic deterioration in pupil behaviour. It is happening in pleasant environments and it is middle-class as wll as working class kids."

Last week NASUWT won a landmark case in the High Court after teachers at Bonus Pastor school, in the London borough of Lewisham, refused to teach a pupil.

The 16-year-old boy, who had allegedly verbally and physically abused staff and pupils, had been permanently excluded and was reinstated by governors following an appeal by his mother. Dave Carver, head of history at Bonus Pastor, received a standing ovation from the 1,000 delegates after telling them: "You have to draw a line in the sand."

Dave Battye, a past president of the union, blamed parents for much of the behaviour, saying that for many of them children were the latest fashion accessory.

"They defend them with the same territorial approach they adopt towards their big car, house or garden. But when they produce children so crassly asocial we have lost before we can even begin," he said.

The conference called on the Government to abolish its exclusion targets and the independent appeals panels. Ms Morris said the panels needed to stay, arguing that without them more cases would end up in court. She said that judgments in just 2 per cent of appeals were overturned.

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