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'It's not our problem';Easter Conferences

Troublesome pupils are not the proper responsibility of teachers, according to many NASUWT delegates. Clare Dean reports

SCHOOL sin-bins must not be used as an alternative to permanent exclusion for the worst-behaved children, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said.

The union, which has traditionally taken a hard line on discipline and led the opposition to disruptive children being taught in mainstream schools, spoke out in the wake of ministers' latest inner-city initiative.

Excellence in the Cities, announced by Tony Blair last month, envisages that troublesome pupils will be taken out of the classroom and educated elsewhere on the school site.

But the NASUWT's annual conference in Eastbourne said such units must not be viewed or used as alternatives to permanent exclusion for violent and disruptive pupils.

It vowed to continue its policy of vigorously defending members and attacked the Government for introducing national targets on exclusions.

"Schools must be allowed to make their own decisions about how to deal with disruptive pupils," said Chris Lines from the union's national executive. "You can't say here's your target and beyond that you cannot go."

The union warned that one of the most damaging elements in education remained pupils who responded neither to authority nor ambition, but who imposed their own "chaotic agenda" on everyone else.

Delegates told horrific tales:

* a four-year-old expelled from a south Yorkshire school after biting 16 children and five members of staff, including the headteacher, within two days of starting school;

* two 11-year-olds who broke into a comprehensive, pulled the legs off the frogs from the school pond and then played tennis with their dismembered bodies;

* a 15-year-old excluded from a boys' special school after more than 120 incidents of serious violence. The last - stealing a baseball bat and smashing the windows of classrooms where pupils where being taught;

* a girl used a hammer to write off the car of a newly-qualified teacher who had complained she would not sit still in class. The girl later attacked the head and deputy, and a policewoman called to restrain her was unable to do so alone and had to call back-up. An injunction was eventually taken out against the girl going near the school.

Jim Prior, from North Lanarkshire, said educational psychologists "leapt to the defence of miscreants with excuses and explanations but never offered solutions".

And he told the conference: "Teachers should not be expected to teach unruly and dangerous pupils. Nor should we be left to deal with these problems alone.

"We are too soft on the ne'er do wells. The time for namby-pamby education theories is over and tough action must be advocated against all disruptives."

Dave Battye, from the union's national executive, added: "That four-year-old who went round biting members of the public at random was never an education problem. We have to say it's not our problem. Let someone else take it away and sort it out."

School management, 20

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