Who's who on Sir Alan's team

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Stabbings outside the school gates and rows over Islamic dress have been among the behaviour problems faced by the 14 heads and teachers on the Steer task force.

Tarun Kapur, head of Ashton-on-Mersey high, in Cheshire, was forced to confront the realities of pupil misbehaviour when a 14-year-old pupil was stabbed outside his school gates.

Michael Wilson was rushed to hospital with a punctured lung and stomach and arm injuries, after being stabbed by two 16-year-olds in December 2003.

And taskforce member Yasmin Bevan, head of Denbigh high, in Luton, was sued by one of her pupils earlier this year, when she refused to allow her to wear full, head-to-toe Muslim dress.

Ms Bevan insisted that 16-year-old Shabina Begum wear the salwar kameez permitted under school-uniform rules, and deemed acceptable by local Muslim authorities. But the Court of Appeal determined that the school had unlawfully excluded her.

Other taskforce members have achieved prominence through unusual or innovative teaching practice.

Mark Davies, head of Dene Magna, in Gloucestershire, introduced two-way mirrors into his school, allowing teachers and visitors to observe a class without pupils being aware of their presence.

Tim Benson's proposal proved even more controversial: the head of Nelson primary, in east London, received hate mail after suggesting that immigrant children should be given the option of being assessed in their mother tongue.

And Ralph Surman, deputy head at Cantrell primary, in Nottingham, has led a campaign calling for the introduction of age restrictions for teenage magazines. He argued that articles such as "A day in the life of his tackle" made inappropriate reading for pre-teens.

Other taskforce members are renowned for their professional successes. Mo Brennan, head of Hillcrest community college, in Dudley, was made a Dame in the Queen's birthday honours this year. The award recognised that she had taken over a school in special measures and seen a dramatic improvement in its results.

Philip Parkin, former deputy head of Old Clee junior school, in Grimsby, was elected general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers earlier this year.

Judith Elderkin, head of Marlborough Road primary, in Lancashire, received praise from inspectors in 2004. They said: "Pupils have good attitudes, get on very well with each other, and most behave well."

In 2002, inspectors visiting Seven Kings, the east London comprehensive headed by taskforce chair Alan Steer, concluded: "Pupils' behaviour and attitudes are excellent, and contribute significantly to the school's outstandingly purposeful and friendly atmosphere."

The taskforce also includes Ray Priest, head of Bristol city academy; Daphne Such, head of Syndenham school, London; Sue Butcher, lead behaviour professional at Waverley school, Birmingham; and Michael Grant, quality assurance manager, Brumby engineering college, north Lincolnshire.

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