Teachers have the right to a safe working environment, too

I thank The TES for publishing " A disgraceful way to behave". It demonstrates to the world at large one of the continuing problems besetting the teaching profession, the pitiful ramblings of armchair educationists who unfortunately are still listened to by those who desperately seek any justification for their feeble policies.

To suggest that the present exclusion system is fair flies in the face of reality. A seriously disruptive child in school will receive all possible assistance to help it modify its behaviour, involving both internal and external agencies. Only at the very end of the road is exclusion contemplated. Headteachers will only exclude on the basis of carefully documented evidence of unacceptable behaviour. Both pupil and parent have the right to appeal to the governing body of the school and at the end of the process the local education authority can overturn a decision to exclude. By this time the pupil will effectively have had two appeals already. It is lunacy to suggest that it is reasonable for this lengthy process to be overturned by a panel with no experience of the everyday workings of schools.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is not "trying to maintain the myth that teachers are employed to teach biddable children only". On the contrary, NASUWT members up and down the country work hard every day of their working lives to try to keep difficult children within the mainstream. However, unlike Mr McManus, our members do understand their main responsibilities; the protection of all pupils and their fundamental right to learn. In circumstances where Mr McManus's "fair system" fails and puts our members' and pupils' safety at risk, NASUWT will support members who wish to exercise their professional judgment to refuse to teach a pupil. It has not gone unnoticed that the public is grateful to us for protecting decent standards and the educational opportunities of their children.

Teachers, like all other workers, have the right to work in a safe environment. If Mr McManus believes it is reasonable for teachers to be exposed to violent pupils I assume he also condones bus drivers, shop workers, social workers and health workers being assaulted.

The worrying thing is that people like Mr McManus are let loose on training the future teaching force.

HANS RUYSSENAARS National executive member, NASUWT

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