Attacks on staff rise by a third

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Violent assaults by pupils on school staff rose by a third last year, despite attempts to tackle poor behaviour.

The number of teachers in England who had to take at least three days off work because of attacks increased from 205 in 2003 to 272 in 2004.

Health and Safety Executive figures also indicate that twice as many teachers suffered injuries so severe they needed to be resuscitated or kept in hospital.

And they show the number of teachers with major injuries - classified as including amputations, fractures and dislocated joints - rose from 27 to 55. The figures mainly cover injuries to teachers and classroom assistants but also include attacks on staff such as secretaries and caretakers.

Secondary teachers were the most likely to be attacked, followed by secondary teaching assistants, primary assistants and then primary teachers.

Jacqui Smith, school standards minister, asked the HSE to produce the statistics after receiving a parliamentary question from Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman.

Mr Davey said: "It is utterly appalling and totally unacceptable that teachers face this level of serious violence in their schools. These figures suggest too many schools will continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle of severe indiscipline and high staff turnover."

The Westminster government is spending more than pound;470 million over three years to try to improve classroom discipline by employing mentors and introducing school-based police officers.

A behaviour taskforce of 13 teachers is due to report to ministers in the autumn with a series of recommendations for schools.

A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said: "While these figures represent less than one incident for every 30,000 pupils, we are not complacent and are determined to tackle bad behaviour, especially where teachers or staff are injured."

The NASUWT, Britain's second biggest teachers' union, has called for airport-style metal detectors in schools to deter pupils from arriving at classes armed with knives.

Chris Keates, general secretary, said: "These figures are of deep concern and show that the high-profile national focus on behaviour in schools is justified.

"We hope some of the increase is down to schools being more willing to come forward and report these attacks, where they may have been reluctant in the past."

It is difficult to compare the figures to earlier statistics for teachers or to other professions because they are collated differently. However, broader HSE figures for reported injuries that also include accidents indicate that the number of school staff who have taken three days off work or been kept in hospital has fallen by a third since 2001, while there have been increases among staff working in business, transport and catering.

The Liberal Democrats are drawing up a 17-point plan to tackle misbehaviour, including immediate involvement of the police when a teacher is physically assaulted.

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