Discipline debate

17th August 2007 at 01:00
At the very least Tony Callaghan (TES, August 10) should absolve leaders of the NASUWT union, a group to which we both belonged, from his blanket condemnation of those who allegedly "ignored the plight of their members" regarding discipline problems in schools and the appeal panels introduced by the Tory government in the Education (No 2) Act of 1986.

Such critics as we had normally condemned our "aggressive" approach over many years in refusing to teach thousands of violent and disruptive pupils, taking strike action when required and vigorously rebuffing challenges in the media and the courts to our right to defend teachers. The fiercest critic of the appeal panels has always been the NASUWT.

I hesitate to ask Mr Callaghan which planet he inhabited in years such as 1996, when NASUWT support for members was the subject of saturation media coverage, culminating in the case of The Ridings school, Yorkshire, which rocked education. I so hesitate because he was on the union's executive then. Did he not notice anything was going on?

He should be careful about proposing absolute powers "final and enshrined in law" for anyone, including heads. Many among his new Tory friends are keen to extend such ideas into other areas for example, industrial relations which could make it impossible for union leaders to do the things he criticises them for not doing.

Nigel de Gruchy

Former general secretary of the NASUWT, Orpington, Kent

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