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Behaviour: 'I simply assume I will be stampeded, pushed or sworn at'

More than half of teachers in NASUWT survey say they are leaving or seriously considering leaving the profession over abuse from pupils

The NASUWT survey revealed concerns about poor pupil behaviour.

Poor pupil behaviour has driven more than half of teachers to leave the profession or seriously consider quitting it, a new survey has found.

The results of a NASUWT teaching union poll show that violence by pupils affects 24 per cent of teachers at least once a week, and 4 per cent daily,

The survey of almost 5,000 teachers, released at the union's annual conference in Belfast, found 89 per cent had suffered physical or verbal abuse from pupils in the past year, while 86 per cent had been sworn at and 42 per cent verbally threatened.

It also found that over the same period:

  • 29 per cent had been hit, punched or kicked;
  • 39 per cent had been shoved or barged;
  • 7 per cent had been spat at;
  • 3 per cent had been head-butted.

In addition, 27 percent of teachers said they had had their property damaged.

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One teacher said: “My school has become a frightening place over the last few years and I often try to only go on the corridors at times when I expect them to be quiet, as I simply assume I will be stampeded, pushed or sworn at.”

Another teacher said that in their 40 years teaching they had seen “a demonstrable and seemingly unstoppable deterioration in pupil behaviour”.

A third teacher said they had twice seen pupils use “physically aggressive behaviour” towards a heavily pregnant member of staff.

Physical and verbal abuse from pupils has driven 52 per cent of teachers in the survey to be about to leave the profession or to be seriously considering this step.

Anxiety, depression or stress had affected 46 per cent of respondents, while 81 per cent said pupil abuse had affected their morale and enthusiasm for their job, and 75 per cent felt they lacked the resources or support to meet pupils’ behavioural needs.

Teachers gained little support from their school, with around half saying both that they worked in a culture where verbal and physical abuse were viewed as part of the job and that they were blamed for poor behaviour.

Around half of teachers rarely or never reported incidents to management, as they assumed nothing would be done if they did so.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “No teacher should ever have to go to work with the expectation of being verbally or physically abused, but it is clear from this survey that for too many teachers this is the day-to-day reality.

“Pupil indiscipline is now second only to workload in teachers’ concern about their job and is a contributory factor to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”

Ms Keates said it was “simply unacceptable” that employers were failing in their legal duty to provide a safe working environment, and that while hospitals, stations and other workplaces displayed posters saying abuse of staff was not tolerated this did not happen in schools where teachers were instead blamed.

“Teachers provide one of the most important public services and they deserve better,” she added.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Teachers and school staff have a right to be safe while doing their jobs and any form of misconduct, particularly violence towards them, is completely unacceptable.

“The majority of schools provide a safe environment for pupils and teaching staff, and it’s important that they remain as such.

“We are committed to tackling bad behaviour in schools have made great strides in empowering teachers to tackle this issue and have recently announced a £10m investment to support schools to share best practice in behaviour management.”

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