School backs down on ban

CLUB V COLLEGE: Promising soccer player Brendan Wyatt is in dispute with Westlake Boys after choosing to play for East Coast Bays.
CLUB V COLLEGE: Promising soccer player Brendan Wyatt is in dispute with Westlake Boys after choosing to play for East Coast Bays.

Accusations of bullying are being levelled at Westlake Boys High School over tough sanctions, including ball bans, for students withdrawing from college teams.

The criticism comes after the college initially banned a final year student from the ball, graduation dinner, and sports awards because he wouldn't play soccer for the college.

Soccer player Brendan Wyatt, 17, withdrew from the college team to play for East Coast Bays' premier side when college and club games clashed.

His dad Scott says Brendan told the college of his decision last year but was only informed of the sanctions last Friday, just weeks before the school ball.

This week college principal David Ferguson said in a media interview that it had lifted the sanctions on Brendan but he defended the college's policy.

Westlake Boys says students like Brendan chosen for the college's sports institute are asked to sign an agreement that states they must play for the college for five years.

But Mr Ferguson said he accepted that Mr Wyatt was unaware of the policy.

Board of trustees chairman James Sclater told the North Shore Times the college didn't want to comment further on the issue.

A Facebook page supporting Brendan had attracted 6400 people by yesterday.

Mr Wyatt says no contract was signed when his son joined the academy when he was in year 10, or fourth form.

He says the situation his son faced was a form of bullying and comes at a time when his son is studying for Cambridge exams.

"It's not physical but it's pressuring.

"It's coercing. It's using your authority as a school to put pressure on a student to change his mind.

"It's a fantastic school. I just think they have made a mistake here."

Mr Wyatt says his son has written to the principal seeking an admission a mistake was made and an apology.

If the college does keep the policy it must make parents and students aware that signing up to the institute could impact their sporting life later, he says.

East Coast Bays is offering his son an opportunity to pursue soccer after college. Brendan is among three boys the club hopes to send to England for a trial with a club, he says.

"Every young boy's dream is to be a footballer. As a parent I don't want to squash that dream."

East Coast Bays AFC president Steve Buckley says he's heard of students being pressured to play for the college but not being banned from things like the ball.

"This has been going on for may years. If we continue this tack, it will go on for many more years. The people who ultimately suffer are the players."

Mr Buckley would like colleges and clubs to work together to improve the schools competition and relieve the pressure on clubs.

He believes a compromise can be reached through a willingness for flexibility and changes to games schedules.

North Shore Times