Truce sets in as children return

20th September 1996 at 01:00
Children returned to Manton junior school in Worksop this week as parents called off a boycott protesting at the cost of Matthew Wilson's tuition.

Parents and governors failed to agree over Matthew's schooling. Parents have now sent a petition to Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard urging her to intervene.

However, Mrs Shephard has said she will not act in this case because the governors had not behaved unlawfully and it is the resonsibility of the local authority to find a solution.

Nottinghamshire County Council says the boy's fate is in the hands of governors as long as Matthew's mother wants to keep him at the school.

The dispute highlighted the debate over whether governors should be able to overrule a headteacher's decision to exclude a pupil.

Chair of governors Eileen Bennett says Matthew has suffered a series of family traumas and it is in his interests to be among his friends at school. She adds that while he is "no angel" his bad behaviour has been exaggerated to force tougher legislation.

"He is being used in a struggle between unions and the Government. The school is also playing along because they want rid of any child who might affect their reputation and their performance in the exam league tables."

She insists that there will be no compromise. "If we allow them to have their way on Matthew they will turn their attentions to the next child who steps out of line. Where will it stop?" The National Association of Head Teachers believes the Government should tighten the rules on exclusions to stop governors overruling heads who have followed the correct procedures.

David Hart, the NAHT's general secretary, warned that governors at Manton had failed to take the most pragmatic approach. "This is a ludicrous situation in which the governing body has managed to act in such a way that it has turned not only the teachers but the majority of parents against it," he said.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, whose members threatened to go on strike rather than teach Matthew, said governors usually supported their heads on disciplinary matters.

NASUWT has used this and other recent cases to campaign for legislation to remove disruptive pupils from mainstream education to special units for disruptive pupils.

General secretary Nigel de Gruchy has called on the Government for more funds to be made available for pupil referral units for disruptive pupils. He claims that one such unit is within walking distance of Matthew's home.

Mr de Gruchy also wants appeal panels to be scrapped unless governors and the local authority disagree about a solution.

Despite the clamour, the Department for Education has said no final decision has been reached on legislation to deal with disruptive pupils that will form part of the autumn Education Bill. However it has said it could require appeals panels to consider the interests of all children.

Manton parents have complained that by getting individual tuition Matthew Wilson was benefiting unfairly from his actions.

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