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Teachers Shut Down British School Because of One Troublesome Boy

October 29, 1996

WORKSOP, England (AP) _ The teachers and principal at a school in central England shut down their school today because of one troublesome 10-year-old, saying he made teaching the other 200 children impossible.

Principal Bill Skelley expelled Matthew Wilson from Manton Junior School twice last year. Skelley and the school’s eight teachers say the boy is disruptive and violent, and accuse him of once attacking a teacher with a baseball bat.

After the school board twice reinstated the expelled boy and rejected private tutoring for him, Skelley and his eight teachers notified parents that they were canceling classes as of this morning.

``You will be aware that all the teachers in this school have refused to teach an individual pupil,″ Skelley said in a letter sent to parents Monday night.

``As I am not in a position to guarantee the appropriate health and safety of all the children in the school, I have to tell you that school will be closed tomorrow.″

The case of Worksop’s problem child raises the larger problem of a dispute over control of Britain’s state-run schools.

In Britain, responsibility for running the schools is split between teachers and a board of governors, mostly made up of local council representatives and parents.

Who has the ultimate say is unclear, however. So is the issue of who should decide _ the local county council and the education ministry each accuse the other of abdicating responsibility in failing to arbitrate the issue.

Matthew’s mother, Pamela Cliffe, has refused Skelley’s entreaties to send the boy to a school for children with learning difficulties.

When the school year began six weeks ago, Skelley and the board of governors agreed that Matthew would receive instruction from an outside tutor in a class away from other children.

Other parents, however, balked at the $22,400 the tutor would cost the school. The board of governors’ chairwoman, Eileen Bennett, withdrew the extra teacher last week and insisted that Matthew join a class.

``I don’t think it is a good idea to criminalize a 10-year-old boy by teaching him in isolation,″ Bennett said.

Teachers unions are supporting the Worksop teachers.

In a similar dispute at a school in Halifax in northern England, the education ministry is sending in government inspectors to examine demands by teachers that 60 disruptive pupils _ one-tenth of the student body _ be expelled. The teachers have threatened to strike unless the students go.

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