A 'hellraiser' who plays chess

26th April 1996 at 01:00
Just how much of a menace is Richard Wilding, the 13-year-old boy at the centre of the Nottingham exclusion dispute? As ever, it depends on which paper you read.

The tabloids recognised his type instantly: a violent thug, a tearaway, an uncontrollable yob.

The Sun - the paper which once dubbed a child as the "worst brat in Britain" - claimed Richard had waved a chair at a pupil, hurled stones to disrupt a maths lesson and threatened to headbutt teachers, telling them: "Come here and I'll do you." It said his exclusion followed 30 incidents.

According to the Daily Mirror, - "the boy no classroom can hold" - the true number of alleged incidents is 45. Not to be outdone, the Daily Express declared Richard was responsible for 54 misdemeanours.

The tabloids gave Richard short shrift and, in devoting little space to his protestations of innocence, appeared to back the school's actions. The Mirror went furthest, calling the appeal panel "pen-pushing yobs" and asking: "Would you be happy if your son and daughter had to sit next to him?"

But the Guardian, which photographed the young hellraiser playing chess with his parents, was willing to allow that he may have been misjudged. It found a local shopkeeper who called Richard "a likeable lad". The Daily Telegraph, however, compared Richard to Richmal Crompton's Just William character.

The difference, it said, was that William's "boyish misadventures" stopped short of physical violence for fear of "a cuff on the head". Teachers, having supported the abolition of corporal punishment, had made themselves vulnerable to pupils prepared to exploit the system, it added.

The Independent tried to tackle the underlying issue of what to do with disruptive pupils and, having weighed the pros and cons of exclusions, said teachers deserved to be supported in their disciplinary decisions. More resources were needed for specialised teaching in schools, it added.

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