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High school suspends protesting pupils

PUBLISHED: 11:13 15 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:05 07 July 2010

A Norfolk high school said it was justified in suspending 23 of its students for a week after they staged a protest over changes to their tutor groups.

A Norfolk high school said it was justified in suspending 23 of its students for a week after they staged a protest over changes to their tutor groups.

Just weeks after teachers across the county went on strike over pay, a group of pupils at Methwold High School carried out a 15 minute protest on the school's playing field on Monday morning.

The strike, which was over the shake-up of the school's tutor groups, resulted in the 23 participants, who refused to go back to lessons, being temporarily excluded until Monday.

Parents of the suspended teenagers described the decision by the school's management as “harsh” and “extreme”. But staff yesterday said the pupils had been punished after being “disobedient” and had defied the instructions of the senior leadership team.

Kevin Leat, of Pennycress Drive, Thetford, whose 15-year-old daughter Kellie was suspended, said the situation was “ludicrous.”

“I thought we lived in a democratic world where we had the right to protest against things we did not want?” he said.

Another parent Steve Randall, of Wretton, near Downham Market, added that the punishment was “very extreme” and “hypocritical” considering that teachers were striking themselves a fortnight ago.

The protest came as Methwold High School announced it was introducing “vertical tutoring” in which forms would be mixed up to include three pupils from each year group.

Headteacher Denise Walker said the student strike was a “storm in a tea cup” and 95pc of pupils supported of the changes, which would promote more one-to-one tutoring and develop community spirit. The smaller tutor group sizes would give younger students access to positive older role models, and enable students to develop important skills in leadership and personal responsibility, she said.

“I am really proud to announce the decision to move to vertical tutoring. This marks a significant change to our current way of working, and I am confident that the benefits to the learning, and therefore the academic success and well-being of all our students, will be significant,” said Mrs Walker.

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