School funding cuts 'driving increased pupil violence'

NASUWT conference hears restorative justice means pupils think 'do what you like, nothing is going to happen'

Martin George

Martin George

Budget cuts are driving an increase in pupil violence, the NASUWT annual conference heard.

Education budget cuts are fuelling an increase in violence by pupils in schools, a union conference has heard.

Delegates at the NASUWT teaching union’s annual gathering in Belfast raised examples of teachers facing physical and verbal abuse in the classroom.

The conference called on the union’s leadership to continue to back teachers and use industrial action “when their health, safety and welfare is placed at risk by pupil indiscipline”.

The debate followed an NASUWT survey where a quarter of respondents said they were affected by violence by pupils at least once a week.

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Emma Thomas, of Huntingdonshire, said: “I’m dealing with a case right at this moment where a pupil pushed a member of staff with enough force that his arm went through a double glazed window.

“Pupil violence is on the rise. Most of the cases I’m dealing with are injuries to staff where they are going in and trying to stop violence between students.

“This violence is getting out of control, not because of the way the students are but because way back somebody hasn’t dealt with the way they behaved.”

Other delegates raised concerns that school leaders were not backing teachers who experienced pupil indiscipline or had ineffective restorative justice approaches.

Stephen O’Connor, from Pembrokeshire, said: “Violence in the workplace is getting worse. I have had threats to myself this year.

“It is partly because we have a restorative practice system which to the kids mean ‘do what you like, nothing is going to happen’.

“But it is mainly due to budget cuts.”

He said this lack of funding meant there were not enough places in pupil referral units, so “extremely abusive and violence pupils” were being kept in mainstream schools.

Shaun Cooper, from Perth and Kinross, told the conference that cuts mean there are not enough staff to work with pupils who need time to build good relations with teachers.

He said: “We have children in our schools and we identify the issues that have got, the mental health issues, so what’s happening? The government cuts mental health budgets for child and adolescent mental health services.”

He added: “It’s about the money, stupid. We shouldn’t have to put up with any of this, and the reason we are putting up with this is there’s not the resources in our schools to enable us as teachers to teach our children and help them develop as individuals.”

The conference also heard calls for parents to the held responsible for the behaviour of their children.

Alfredo Gualda, from Doncaster, said: “If your child is constantly disruptive, if they are violent, if they are abusive, I think it’s about time that schools and teachers question the parenting of those children.”



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