Week in perspective

16th June 2000 at 01:00
MINISTERS faced fresh trouble this week, over their efforts to cut the number of school exclusions.

Last week's attack by Tory leader,

William Hague, was followed by a call from the Labour-dominated Local Government Association for the Government to scrap its target of reducing permanent exclusions to 8,000 by 2002.

Graham Lane, the LGA's education chair, also called for independent appeals panels, which have the power to order a school to readmit an expelled pupil, to be scrapped. He said that the Government's "robotic approach to targets" was leading to "massive confrontation" between heads and appeals panels.

His criticism came after Education Secretary David Blunkett defended Government policy in parliament. He said the Government was spending far more on the problem than the Tories had when they were in power.

The continuing problems surrounding exclusions were highlighted by two separate court cases. In the first, a high court judge ordered a judicial review into the re-instatement by an appeals panel of a 15-year-old boy to a Sheffield school. The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was excluded after being accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl from the same school. The girl is refusing to return to school for fear of meeting him.

In a separate case, supply teacher, Margaret Sesay, was cleared by a jury at Southwark Crown Court of assaulting a disruptive pupil during a violent classroom confrontation last July.

Meanwhile, eight of the 35 teachers at the school where headmaster Philip Lawrence was murdered have quit.

Their resignations come just months after a private-sector hit squad brought in Marie Stubbs as head of StGeorge's Roman Catholic School in north-west London. Teachers are said to have been angered by Lady Stubbs' management style and their heavy workload.

While one school faced a fresh crisis, another's future was secured - at least for now. David Blunkett rejected complaints from anti-selection campaigners about the conduct of the ballot held three months ago to determine the future of Ripon grammar school in North Yorkshire. The decision follows a ballot in which local parents voted two-to-one in favour of keeping the 11-plus.

Campaigners had complained that a video produced by supporters of the school had broken ballot rules, but Mr Blunkett's decision means that another ballot cannot be held until 2005.

Even without the pressure of the 11-plus, most of Britain's primary-school children are under stress, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the children's charity, Learning Through Landscapes. The survey found that over half of children under 11 suffer from stress in the classroom.

The three main causes were exams, homework and bullying. Children said that the pressures made them feel "mad, angry or cross" and defined stress as "feeling sad or miserable".

Older children preparing for GCSEs and A-levels were this week told to skip revision and watch England's football team open their Euro 2000 campaign against Portugal. The advice came from the National Union of Teachers, the National Confederation of Parent Teachers Associations and Lord Skidelsky, a former government curriculum adviser and Tory peer. However, those who took their advice may have become more rather than less stressed. After going 2-0 up, England went on to lose the match 3-2.

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