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Majority of teachers have faced aggressive behaviour from pupils within the last year, poll finds

More than half of state-school staff have faced aggressive behaviour from a student in the past year, with a quarter facing the same problems from parents, a new survey reveals.

Staff reported a catalogue of incidents, from being squirted in the face with a syringe full of water to being sworn at, threatened, intimidated and attacked with furniture.

The most common forms of physical aggression from pupils included pushing, shoving, punching, scratching, spitting and biting. Two-fifths of staff had considered leaving the profession because of poor student behaviour, the poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and ITV regional news found.

Eight out of ten staff on the receiving end of parental aggression had been verbally insulted. Six out of ten said they were intimidated or threatened and 4 per cent said they had been physically attacked.

Two-fifths said the behaviour of parents and carers had worsened in recent years. More than half said pupil behaviour had deteriorated in the past two years.

The poll comes following a major TES survey of 6,000 teachers worldwide, which revealed educators across the world faced very similar challenges.

Most worrying of all, the report revealed that in the US, UK and Australia, approximately half the teachers surveyed had been physically threatened by a student during their career, and similar numbers had been reduced to tears by poor behaviour.

Pam Harris, a supply teacher from East Yorkshire, told the ATL survey: “A pupil emptied the contents of a syringe (it turned out to be water) in my face and ran off. The pupil was in school the next day and wasn’t even asked to apologise.”

A head of department in an academy in London said: “Being sworn at seems to be relatively normal.”

Sharon Lee, a primary teacher at an academy in Surrey, said: “In the past two years, I have had two children permanently excluded from my class due to violent behaviour towards others. Both cases were linked to mental-health issues, and it seems that we are experiencing more children struggling with these than ever before.”

Rebecca Binder, a primary teacher in a school in Surrey, said: “During a parents’ evening, a parent launched a verbal attack saying that I had made her children's lives a misery.

“I just had to carry on as if nothing happened. Soon after this I left teaching due to stress and depression, and my confidence was destroyed. I am teaching again now at a different school, but still remember that awful time and the fact that I had no support.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “It is shocking that almost 60 per cent of education staff have faced aggression from a student in the last year. No member of staff should be subjected to aggressive behaviour, in any form, while doing their job.

“Sadly, although the vast majority of students are well-behaved and a pleasure to teach, poor behaviour is now a daily reality for most staff. Many students have chaotic home lives that would cause most adults to lose their temper occasionally.

“As well as having to be experts in their own subject, teachers also need to be psychologists and behavioural experts. Schools need to have firm and consistent discipline policies and work with parents to keep schools and colleges safe places for students and staff alike.”

Related stories:

How maverick teachers ruin behaviour management for everybody else - July 2014

No-notice inspections to start next week in bid to tackle bad behaviour - January 2014


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