Branded a bully through bigotry

20th September 1996 at 01:00
Small wonder that so many teachers hold their trainers in contempt when they have to witness such a basketful of bigotry as that displayed by Mick McManus (TES, September 13).

Where does Mr McManus's argument lead? In the case at Manton Junior School it leads to a small group of dedicated teachers, all female, fearful for their own and their pupils' physical safety being branded as bullies. Why? Because they simply cannot cope any more. After years of trying they have sought and secured their union's support for strike action if need be as the only remedy left to them in appalling circumstances. Meanwhile, the young perpetrator of violence, intimidation and disruption escapes Mr McManus's jaundiced attention. Yet another triumph of dogma over common sense to add to the distinguished record of so many education theorists.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is on record as having warned every secretary of state since 1986 that eventually public conflict was inevitable given the new exclusion arrangements. Blissfully ignorant of the facts Mr McManus claims, nevertheless, that everyone accepts the procedures as fair. He asserts that all parties have rights of appeal. Teachers have none. Parents have several.

Mr McManus's logic leads him to assert that teachers must set aside their common law and statutory rights to go about their business free from physical intimidation because their employers have said so. Perversely, he even goes on to define it as "reasonable, democratic, professional and moral" for them to do so.

"If the pupil offends again, he or she can be excluded again," blithely argues Mr McManus. Perhaps someone should tell Mr McManus that is precisely what happened in the Manton case. It was only after the second exclusion and second reinstatement that the teachers arrived at the end of their tether.

Spotting his own weakness in others, Mr McManus accuses NASUWT of "trying to maintain the myth that teachers are employed to teach biddable children only". Such an outrageous and false assertion is an insult to the valiant efforts made by teachers at Manton School to cope with the youngster over many years.

Mr McManus proceeds to draw puerile parallels with other professions. Since dentists have to treat the self-induced sweet-rotted teeth of some children, he argues, teachers should have to teach all pupils no matter how violent and disruptive they might be. Is it really necessary for someone to point out to a principal lecturer in teacher education that in the interest of safety a dentist would have to cease treatment immediately in the event of a client behaving like the youngster in question?

As for doctors, they already have the right to strike off violent patients from their lists.

Despite all the suspicion NASUWT did not initiate publicity in this or any of the other recent cases. We have simply been pursuing our policy for more than a quarter of a century of offering full support to members faced with these problems. However, noticing Mr McManus's preoccupation with professionalism and publicity stunts, he might have passed a comment on the chair of governors at Manton allowing herself to be photographed for a national tabloid newspaper in the same room as the youngster concerned, stripped to his underpants, receiving some kind of unorthodox Chinese treatment.

Mr McManus cannot even get other facts correct. NASUWT never defined a career teacher as one with unbroken service. Far from "punishing pregnancy" incremental credit was given for time spent rearing children.

The NASUWT accepted a compromise which enabled the youngster to remain in the school while at the same time addressing the real concern members had about their own safety and their ability to teach the other children. Furthermore, there is a much better solution available in a nearby special unit with many vacant places. Given such simple but important facts I was somewhat surprised that The TES editorial team did not extend a restraining hand to protect Mr McManus, in his own best interests, from the worst effects of his intemperate diatribe.

Nigel de Gruchy is the general secretary of the NASUWT

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