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Marjorie Evans
"Teachers are extremely vulnerable"
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The NUT's John Bangs
"Government guidance is no protection in law"
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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 13:50 GMT
Union demands 'expel unruly pupils'
pupils entering school
Union says teachers must not be put at risk
The biggest teachers' union in England and Wales says it will endorse industrial action - including strikes - if head teachers do not expel pupils who need to be physically restrained.

The tough new stance by the National Union of Teachers follows the case of Marjorie Evans, the head teacher and NUT member cleared of assaulting a pupil but suspended from work for 13 months.

"The physical restraint of a particular pupil or pupils should not be considered a regular or routine act," the union says in new guidance to its 202,000 members.

"The use of physical restraint of pupils on a regular basis will place the teacher at both physical and professional risk."

If expulsion is ruled out by the head teacher, school governors or an appeal panel, the NUT says it will use industrial action to try to force an exclusion where, in the words of the Department for Education, "the retention of that pupil would disrupt education or threaten the welfare of pupils or staff".

Self defence

The union says the fact that the education department has issued advice on the use of physical restraint shows the problems teachers face.

But it says teachers should not feel obliged to intervene where it would put their own safety at risk or where it could lead to accusations of assault or child abuse.

Where pupils assault teachers or commit serious breaches of discipline, such as bullying or assaulting other pupils, exclusion should be the response, the union says.

To help protect themselves against false accusations it says teachers should try to summon assistance as soon as possible, if they have had to restrain a pupil. All such incidents should be recorded as soon as possible.

Confidence and careers 'at risk'

The NUT's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said: "Marjorie Evans was suspended from her post for 13 months.

"She suffered the turmoil of two trials, public attacks on her professional integrity, excessive investigation by the police and was found innocent of all charges.

Mrs Evans said some pupils could be very violent towards other children or their teacher or might even threaten to harm themselves. Teachers had a duty to act.

But they were extremely vulnerable to malicious accusations, she said.

For the teacher it meant immediate suspension.

"This can destroy teachers' confidence, it can destroy their careers," she said.

"The allegations go on record and then when teachers are applying for other jobs the governors just don't want to take the risk."

Political issue

So if teachers found themselves regularly having to restrain a pupil, the child should be expelled.

"The school will have tried its best to overcome the problems. But there comes a point where the school has to say it can do no more and in the interests of the pupil and for the good of the school as a whole, that pupil must be moved on," Mr McAvoy said.

The whole issue has become politicised in recent months, after the government set targets to reduce the number of exclusions.

The Tory leader, William Hague, said plans to teach disruptive pupils in special units within schools would simply lead to young "thugs" terrorising their fellow pupils in the playgrounds and corridors.

On Wednesday, the shadow education secretary, Theresa May, said the Tories opposed teachers' taking industrial action but the government had to recognise that they needed more support.

"It is wrong to impose political targets on heads and teachers forcing them to keep disruptive, violent or abusive pupils in the classroom," she said.

"We are committed to abolishing Labour's targets for school exclusions which are tying the hands of teachers and forcing schools to keep disruptive or violent pupils.

"Under the Conservatives' Free Schools policies, schools will no longer face stiff fines for excluding pupils. Good school discipline will no longer mean a heavy blow to school budgets."

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Education
Expelled pupil loses court plea
02 Nov 00 | Scotland
School acts after teacher 'bullied'
01 Aug 00 | Education
Expelled pupils 'to stay out'
06 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Hague promises to tackle school 'thugs'
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