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Sue Littlemore
reports from East Brighton College of Media Arts
 real 28k

Friday, 23 June, 2000, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Head quits over disruptive pupils
group of teenagers out of school (anon)
Disruptive pupils: How should schools deal with them?
By BBC Education Correspondent Sue Littlemore

A head teacher appointed to turn round a failing school resigned partly because he felt he was being prevented from excluding disruptive pupils.

One of the reasons Tony Garwood quit his job in Brighton was because the local Labour education authority opposed his wish to exclude 15 difficult pupils.

Earlier this month, the Conservative leader, William Hague, said Labour polices on discipline meant 4,000 thugs were being left in our classrooms.

But is throwing children out of school the best way to raise standards?

Tarnished reputation

Mr Garwood is to leave East Brighton College of Media Arts at the end of the summer term.

He supervised the closure of the failing Marina High School and its re-opening as the college, last September.

two teenagers
Some heads prefer to keep difficult pupils in school

But although the school was re-launched and has a new, glossy name, its reputation remains badly tarnished.

Dick Boland, of the National Union of Teachers, described an experience told to him by one of his member.

"He was teaching his lesson and suddenly a boy burst in, not one of his class, but this was a boy who wanted to be with his mates," Mr Boland said.

"The teacher summoned the patrol teacher who should be on duty at all times.

"Now the patrol teacher wasn't able to get there for 20 minutes because he was dealing with other incidents, so the lesson for all of the rest of those youngsters was disrupted for the whole of that 20 minutes."

'End of the road'

Last March, six months after the school's "fresh start", Mr Garwood resigned.

Now it has emerged that part of his reason was that he wanted to permanently exclude 15 difficult pupils, but Brighton and Hove education authority refused to support him.

David Hawker, Brighton's chief education officer, said: "The LEA does support the exclusion of pupils where that is the end of the road, where everything else has been tried within the school.

"What you don't want to do is to go immediately to exclusion the moment there's a problem."

Head teachers who were too ready to exclude pupils were often not very good at their jobs, he said.

"You need to ask the question what are you doing to educate the pupils you have in your care effectively, what have you got in terms of the grit and determination to ensure that every child gets a decent education in your school."

There's no doubt, Tony Garwood was no superhead. Ofsted inspectors said he lacked authority when they condemned the school as failing.

Difficult balance

But Mr Boland believes that does not mean the exclusions were unnecessary

"Of course any school does need good effective and strong management and leadership, but some of the youngsters with whom our members are dealing are really seriously, persistently disruptive," he said.

"I have to question whether the best head teacher in the world could deal with a situation like that."

Clive Frost is the new temporary head teacher of the school.

He is very reluctant to permanently exclude difficult pupils, preferring to send them under special supervision to a withdrawal room.

The Conservative leader William Hague recently argued that avoiding exclusions means putting the interests of a disruptive minority above the interests of the well-behaved.

The balance is frustratingly difficult to achieve.

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Education
Schools drop 'superhead' label
06 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Hague promises to tackle school 'thugs'
01 Jun 00 | Unions 2000
Action on exclusion of violent pupils
27 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
More 'sin bins' for unruly pupils
15 Mar 00 | Education
Ex-superhead backs academies
05 Nov 99 | Education
School puts spy cameras in toilets
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