Magazine pays damages

The two biggest unions clashed over handling unruly pupils at their Easter conferences. Clare Dean opens a three-page report

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has won damages and an apology from a magazine over criticism of its hardline stance on disruptive pupils.

Managing Schools Today has paid Pounds 5,000 to the NASUWT Benevolent Fund, met NASUWT costs of more than Pounds 3,000 and issued a printed apology.

Its editorial board includes Peter Downes, Louise Kidd and Chris Lowe, all past presidents of the Secondary Heads Association, and Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

The apology follows a column, printed last year, which claimed that Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT general secretary, and his union had pressed for the exclusion of 60 children from The Ridings school in Halifax and were responsible for dragging their names through the press.

The column said they had done so as part of "a sinister campaign to enhance their public profile, increase membership and become beneficiaries of a moral panic about violence and indiscipline in schools, sacrificing the interests of innocent or vulnerable children to their own ambition".

The apology, printed in the management journal and blown up and displayed in the hall of this week's NASUWT annual conference, said: "We now accept that we mis-stated the true facts and that we were wrong to impute such a grossly improper motive to Mr de Gruchy and the NASUWT."

It is now understood that the NASUWT had not pressed for the exclusion of 60 pupils but had merely produced a list of pupils who were causing difficulties and never suggested all the children were unteachable or merited expulsion.

And it accepted that the union had never released the names of the children to the press although once the media knew about the story it became necessary to comment. This, however, had not entailed identifying problem children.

"In the circumstances it was plainly wrong to suggest that the actions of Mr de Gruchy and the NASUWT were motivated by the shameful considerations which we attributed to them.

"They have an important function to perform in the defence of the health and safety of their members, which may be put at risk if there is a failure on the part of the authorities to make adequate provision for the needs of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties."

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