Drunk, high on heroin and looking to kill a teacher

David Henderson reports from the NASUWT conference at Seamill on growing classroom disquiet over indiscipline

RISING indiscipline, difficulties with pupils who were once in special schools and violence against staff topped a union agenda again last week, indicating growing classroom disquiet with social inclusion and the failure of limited sanctions to curb unacceptable behaviour.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Scotland's smallest teaching union, echoed the refrain of the previous week among members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association about damage to the education of the majority from an out of control minority - many with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

But even experienced delegates at the NAS's annual conference in Seamill were chastened by the tale of Susan McBride, a former principal teacher of art and design in Renfrewshire who was forced into early retirement at the age of 41 after a violent classroom bust-up that led to a janitor being knocked out and viciously kicked.

Ms McBride told a hushed hall that a fourth-year girl who had been in trouble repeatedly asked for help over lunchtime with her Standard grade folio. Only the girl and her friend turned up and they sat at the back of the class. Normally a group of other girls appeared at lunchtime but not that day.

"A young man burst through the door and walked right up to me and pushed his face into mine, quite obviously drunk and as it transpired doped up with heroin. He started shouting and swearing at me and the pupil at the back was screaming: 'Don't wind him up, don't wind him up.'

"But I didn't know who this young man was. He then pulled the phone off the wall and threw things all round the room, meanwhile effing and blinding and telling me he was going to kill me.

"The girl was screaming her head off. 'He's going to hit you, he's going to kill you.' At that point, after trashing the room, a janitor passed the door and the boy ran at him and headbutted him. He was knocked to the floor and the boy bit into his hand, right into the bone of his finger and the girl ran away screaming it was all my fault. I tried to get help but I could see the janitor was on the floor getting kicked in."

She phoned for help from an adjacent classroom and eventually the police were called. "I was terrified and I was very, very shocked," she said. The boy vanished but 10 minutes later tried to come back into the school to find her. It took four policemen to get him into a car while the girl was bundled into another.

Ms McBride said she was still asked to take the girl's last period and the pupils "in my opinion" knew something was going to happen. She made a statement through her union but only after a bust-up the next week with another teacher was the girl suspended for 10 days. She was already on probation. Ms McBride said she had no support from the school and described its version of events as a "fabrication".

The 19-year-old boy, the girl's brother, was a former pupil and had been removed in second year after throwing a chair at the principal teacher of English which missed and went through a window.

"I couldn't go back to teaching after that and my GP was so distressed at my condition that within a week she sent a psychiatrist out to my house because I was too afraid to go home because the police assured me there was a very good chance the boy, pending his trial, could be really pissed off with what had happened.

"I had to give up a job I loved and it destroyed a huge part of my life. I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Ms McBride said.

Tino Ferri, the NAS's Scottish spokesman, said it was the worst case he had come across in 12 years of defending members.

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