Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When a child is detained


UK -
A brave face
Despite deprivation and tragedy, the pupils of Gorton Mount primary find much to smile about

* Eric Allison

Guardian - London
November 5, 2008

Picture a primary school in a deprived area of Manchester, where a third of the 450 pupils are considered "at risk". Add to that a tragedy involving children from the school, followed by the removal into immigration custody of a nine-year-old boy, at a time when teachers say he was showing signs of recovering from the trauma of his life in the country of his birth.

You might imagine such a school to be sombre. From the outside at least, Gorton Mount primary creates that impression - but after a day spent with staff and pupils, it is clear that this is a happy place.

Manchester is known as the asbo capital of the UK, and Gorton, where the Channel 4 series Shameless was filmed, has more than its share of problems. Staff say they are as likely to give advice to parents on debt management and nutrition as on academic progress.

Carol Powell has been head of Gorton Mount since 2002. In August, when we first spoke, Powell was embroiled in consultations with lawyers and activists, trying to prevent the removal to Iran of a nine-year-old pupil who, along with his mother, brother and sister, had been placed in a detention centre. (The family is now free and the boy is back in class.) Two weeks before, Powell had attended the funeral of a Gorton parent, who had died under a train. The head was also involved in several child protection cases...

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