And in the red corner

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Advice for teachers in their early career

Managing pupils' behaviour is probably the biggest worry for all teachers, especially for those with limited experience. If you are having difficulty in controlling your class, you need extra support - urgently.

It's useful to have someone who will take miscreants off your hands, or read the riot act for you, or with you. The advice of a friend - "Don't let the buggers get you down" - when I had problems with a class gave me the resolve not to give up. I changed tack and became much firmer with pupils.

And it worked.

Most behaviour problems are low-level - calling out, fidgeting and so on.

These may lack the drama of a fight, but they can be very wearing all the same.

I hope it never happens to you, but some pupils can be violent. One teacher, for example, was bitten "almost to the bone" by a five-year-old when removing him from class. Another time, a friend asked the same teacher about scratches on her neck inflicted by a child - she'd forgotten they were there because such incidents were so common.

If you are injured by a pupil, get a medical assessment of the injury. Even if it seems trivial, it's worth having it noted by a GP in case anything develops later - for example, long-term back problems or varicose veins aggravated by a kick. A doctor's report can be vital evidence if you later pursue compensation or decide to prosecute.

If injuries last for more than six weeks, you can claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, but only if the police recognise that an assault has been committed. Schools rarely inform the police, who are often reluctant to prosecute unless the injuries are serious, although they might issue a formal warning.

Unions say students who attack teachers should be suspended immediately and dealt with through the disciplinary procedure, but you have no contractual right to refuse to teach a difficult pupil. If something awful does happen, think about what led up to the event. Remember that, as you gain experience, you will learn to read the signs and so avoid the flashpoints.

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99) See

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