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Staff turn to police to subdue unruly pupils

Teachers call for zero tolerance of disruptive behaviour from pupils as young as three, Nic Barnard reports

Teachers facing growing levels of violence from children, regularly call in the police, union members heard this week.

Delegates to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Torquay heard that on one occasion a police helicopter was called out when a fight between rival groups involving 150 pupils at a Swindon secondary school got out of hand. Another incident ended with a girl who ran riot at another Swindon school being physically removed by the police and charged with a public disorder offence.

Phil Baker, Swindon branch secretary, said that police were becoming regular visitors to schools and fights were leading to assault charges.

He said that three struggling schools in Swindon had lost between pound;24,000 and pound;30,000 in funding after excluding children for offences including arson and carrying a knife. Meanwhile, foundation schools in the suburbs had the luxury of setting aside contingency funds so they could kick out troublemakers to maintain their image. "The inner-city schools are more likely to be punished but often it is those schools that go out of their way to hold on to children."

Delegates called for zero tolerance of bad behaviour in schools and said too many parents refused to take responsibility for their disruptive children. Troublemakers are now as young as three.

The conference called for better funding to cope with pupils with behaviour problems and sai schools were too cash-strapped to provide the care and support that their damaged pupils needed.

The problem was compounded because schools lose funding for every pupil they permanently exclude. Nottingham nursery teacher Suzan Gokova said as many as one child in 10 in her groups could have severe behavioural problems. "They may scratch other children, hit them, bite them, throw things across the classroom.

"A growing number of colleagues have been assaulted. I have experience of where a child has thumped the teacher or kicked them, and when the teacher has shown the bruises, the parents have just said, 'Oh, well'. They find it amusing, or they're angry that they've been brought in, as if it has nothing to do with them."

Applying for special needs funding involved huge bureaucracy with uncertain results. "These children need love, they need time, they need space, and they need somebody that can understand them," she said.

Teachers said they supported inclusion in principle but it was too often poorly-funded, and teachers lacked sufficient training. Andy Ballard, a science teacher at King Alfred's school in Somerset, said inclusion was the sign of a civilised society, but it had become the cheapskate option.

A Year 7 pupil arrived with Asperger's syndrome and a learning assistant in tow. "We spent the lunchtime in the library researching it, but we couldn't be certain that my strategy was right. I had no expert to turn to." Mr Ballard did however end up marrying the learning assistant.

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