LAW lords are expected to rule within the next two months on a landmark case to decide whether teachers can refuse to teach violent pupils.
A hearing at the House of Lords this week examined two incidents in different schools where teachers prevented reinstated pupils from returning to mainstream classes because they considered them disruptive.
Both involve members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. Pupil L was expelled from a Hertfordshire comprehensive and reinstated by an independent appeals panel. Pupil P was excluded from a south London secondary and returned by governors.The union had successfully argued in the High Court and the Court of Appeal that its industrial action was legal because it related to the conditions of the teachers'
The five Law Lords also examined whether one of the students had been treated appropriately by his school after he was reinstated.
Cherie Booth, QC and wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, represented the 17-year-old pupil L, one of six students expelled for being in a gang attack which put a teenager in hospital.
He was taught in strict isolation by a retired maths teacher in an 8ft by 6ft room after being reinstated by an appeals panel, when staff refused to teach him. Ms Booth said the treatment had not been proper and had damaged his performance at GCSE.
"A child should be reintegrated into the school and not treated as a complete social and educational pariah," she said.
Pupil P, now aged 17, was reinstated in a London secondary two years ago after being permanently excluded for physical threats and verbal abuse to staff and class mates.
Nigel Giffin, representing him, said staff should not have refused to teach the pupil because their action was not a valid trade dispute.
The teachers were not requesting a change to the terms and conditions of their employment nor were they concerned by physical conditions in their workplace, he said.
But David Bean QC, representing the NASUWT, said: "The teacher saying 'I'm stressed out by what this child does' is no different from the truck driver who says 'I'm being required to work exhausting hours'.
"It is not saying we will not teach this particular individual, it is saying we will not teach a boy as disruptive as this."