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Sacking drives pupils to protest

Pupils at Earl Marshal school in Sheffield walked out of classrooms on Monday to demonstrate in support of Chris Searle, their sacked headteacher, writes Mark Whitehead.

About 70 youngsters chanted and gave out leaflets accusing teachers of betraying the former head.

Mr Searle, who first attracted controversy in the 1970s when he was sacked from a London school for publishing outspoken poems by his pupils, was removed from Earl Marshal before Christmas.

Sheffield council also suspended the financial and staffing powers of the school's governors. The council said not enough progress had been made to improve standards and deal with overstaffing after a damning inspectors' report last summer.

Mr Searle, who was due to take early retirement at Easter, went on local radio to appeal to the children to return to their classrooms, and the school quickly went back to normal.

Governors of the school issued a "statement of demands" requesting a full report on the council's actions.

They have also demanded to be involved in the appointment of the school's next headteacher, and said the council should put on record its appreciation of Mr Searle's contribution to Earl Marshal and to multicultural education in the city.

David Waxman, Sheffield's acting director of education, said he was writing to the Earl Marshal governors before their meeting on Monday.

"I will be providing a response to their points and trust that normal work at the school will be continued," he said. "I hope the governors and the authority can work together in the interests of the school."

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