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Stabbed, punched and shot at with air pistols

Tougher action to tackle violent behaviour and knives in schools was promised by the Government after delegates heard a week of horror stories from the classroom.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers'

conference in Brighton was today due to hear how teachers at a Welsh comprehensive had been shot at with air pistols.

A litany of misbehaviour recounted by teachers in debates this week included cases of children as young as five slapping staff, shouting and screaming and throwing chairs. Other teachers had been punched and stabbed by pupils wielding compasses.

At the National Union of Teachers' conference in Gateshead, delegates heard how a 14-year-old pupil smuggled a kitchen knife into school and tried to slash a teacher's neck.

Stephen Twigg, school standards minister, attempted to quell concerns by telling the NASUWT: "Knives have no place in our schools or on our streets.

If Labour is re-elected we will take decisive steps to tackle the hugely disturbing knives culture."

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said teachers would be heartened by Mr Twigg's comments but it would be up to heads and local authorities to make zero-tolerance a reality.

Under government plans headteachers will be given the right to search for knives, and the age limit for buying them will rise from 16 to 18 years.

He said all schools would have to work in partnerships to tackle misbehaviour by 2007 and take responsibility for excluded pupils.

Tim Collins, the shadow education minister, said the Conservative party would make assault on a teacher an aggravated offence.

During the past year NASUWT members have balloted for industrial action authorising members not to teach violent and disruptive pupils in three primary schools and 37 secondaries.

Today, the union was discussing whether schools should introduce a range of measures to tackle violence, including airport-style metal detectors and closed-circuit television cameras.

Paul Howard Davies, a teacher at Rhosnesni high school in Wrexham, was due to describe how pupils at a previous school had shot at each other with air pistols during his lessons. They had also shot at teachers as they arrived at school, but missed.

A NASUWT survey of 180 teachers in the East of England last year suggest that a teacher is verbally or physically assaulted every nine minutes in this country. In more than a quarter of the cases no action was taken by the school and nearly half the teachers said they had been dissatisfied with the response.

Delegates blamed the decision to include pupils with behaviour problems in mainstream schools for much of the poor discipline and called for parents to take greater responsibility for children.

Meanwhile, NUT members backed calls at their conference for a national behaviour charter, outlining minimum standards expected of pupils and sanctions for breaching the code. It says pupils using abusive language in lessons should be automatically excluded and clothes that breach a school's dress code should be confiscated.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which passed a similar motion at its annual conference in Torquay, said it was keen to work with the NUT on developing the charter.

Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, also called for an independent inquiry on pupil behaviour.

Jenny Cooper, a special school teacher from Brent, north London, told NUT delegates how a pupil had smuggled a kitchen knife into school to slash a teacher's neck. The 14-year-old, who was intercepted before she could attack the teacher, was suspended for 15 days and now has to eat alone so she cannot attack other pupils.

Horror stories of badly-behaved pupils are not normal fare at the NUT conference and one delegate chided them, saying they should be talking about education. But Mr Sinnott quipped to the press that it was a sign that the unions were becoming more like each other.

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