Don't exclude child from blame

17th May 1996 at 01:00
While I admire the idealism of the four people who wrote the lead letter concerning a pupil's exclusion and reinstatement (TES, May 3), like most idealists they are long on rhetoric and short on fact.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers did not "gang up on one child and his parents". It sought to protect its members against a prolonged history of bad behaviour by this child (and, according to various newspaper articles, by his parents and brothers).

It is not "a teacher's job to control children". Teachers are not policemen, social workers or prison warders. They are trained to teach and if they develop effective discipline strategies along the way so much the better. It is a teacher's right, however, to expect civilised behaviour from their pupils.

The teachers at the school in question are not "projecting their problems on to children". They are probably - like the writer of this letter - concerned teachers who have a few problems.

The worst case of misrepresentation in this letter, however, is the statement "it is not [the child's] fault if the resources required to teach effectively are not available".

The education authority sought to have this child placed in a school where he could receive the special education he so obviously needs. The parents refused this. The facilities are there - they did not avail themselves of them.

If the people who wrote that letter had to deal with the aftermath of such children being allowed to do exactly what they like in an overcrowded classroom with an overworked teacher "in charge", as I and my fellow union officers do, day in, day out, they might not feel so smug.

This case highlights a problem that we, as union officials, have been dealing with for years. It is fortunate that this incident has ended without bloodshed or broken bones. Any experienced official of any teachers' union will be able to tell far worse stories than this one.

More power to your idealism - I welcome it, truly. However, put the blame where it lies, on the child and possibly the parents, but not on the NASUWT members in the school. They acted out of self-protection and, speaking as an executive member of a rival union, I applaud what they did, for all our sakes.

B WAGGETT

Executive member

Association of Teachers and Lecturers Sefton branch secretary

20 Melrose Avenue

Southport

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