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Torsten Friedag
The superhead describes how violent pupils blocked his efforts at reform
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Friday, 25 August, 2000, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Superhead wanted mass expulsion
Torsten Friedag
Torsten Friedag in happier times with David Blunkett
The super head who resigned from a flagship "fresh start" school says that he was prevented from carrying out a mass expulsion of disruptive pupils.

Torsten Friedag, who resigned earlier this year from the troubled Islington Arts and Media School in north London, says that a "politically correct" board of governors made him keep pupils who he wanted to remove.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's On the Ropes, Mr Friedag said that a hard core of between 30 and 50 pupils were destroying his efforts to turn the school around.

Torsten Friedag
Torsten Friedag says that he lacked support in his efforts to improve the school
And with problems of violence and disruptive behaviour blocking his attempts at change, Mr Friedag said that he wanted to stand up to these pupils and permanently expel them.

"At that moment, the right thing would have been to actually say 'no'. The message has to be that this [behaviour] is not acceptable and these students need to go somewhere else," said Mr Friedag.

But the school governors had a "very politically correct idea that one should always integrate" and prevented a mass expulsion of pupils, Mr Friedag said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

Although expressing his own support for inclusion, he said that when a small number of "very, very disruptive" pupils were jeopardising the progress of the whole school, then those pupils needed to be given specialist support away from the school.

Mr Friedag, who took up the 70,000 headship in a blaze of publicity, was in charge of a school that replaced a former failing school on the same site.

Desperate

But this "fresh start" was seen to struggle when a fight put a pupil in hospital even before the formal re-opening ceremony by the Education Secretary David Blunkett.

Despite his experiences, Mr Friedag says that he would like a second chance to return to the school - but on condition that he had the support of governors and local authority.

"I'd go back into it tomorrow. I'm desperate to do so because I believe in changing schools and changing learning," said Mr Friedag.

But he told interviewer John Humphrys that before his resignation he had lacked the support that he needed when he was trying to make changes.

"At some stage you need to say 'Look I've given so much to it is my health going to suffer?' But I felt that at that stage I could not count on everybody giving their full support and in spite of having gone through 15 months or so of arguing the case all the way along, it was not changing."

The school now has a new head teacher and the local authority, Islington, has had its own education services taken away after a critical inspection - with responsibility now contracted out to a private company.

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See also:

10 Mar 00 | Education
First 'superhead' resigns
05 May 00 | Education
'Fresh start' school stays shut
29 Jun 00 | Education
Rescue plan for 'fresh start' school
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