Behaviour: assaulted by pupils

11th March 2011 at 00:00
I'm a TA and have been bitten, kicked, punched and even headbutted in my stomach, sometimes in front of the whole class, by children up to age eight. The head usually talks to the pupil or tells the parents, but not always. What should I do?

What you said

I work in a secondary school, and if our TAs were assaulted like that then the student would be put in isolation. If it was a persistent thing then they would be assessed as to whether they were safe to have in a class. I know of one student who punched a teacher and has not been in the classroom since as he was deemed too dangerous to be around adults and children.


Any child who has a history of hitting a member of staff with deliberate intent in our school has it written into their individual behaviour management plan that if it happens they will be excluded for the rest of the day and the following day. This sends out a strong message to pupils and staff that this is unacceptable.


The expert view

Action should be taken collectively, with full involvement of all members of the school community. The starting point must be that you - like everyone else - have the right to work and learn without fear of violence and bullying.

There is a great deal schools can do to counteract violence through a whole-school approach. This addresses violence as a collective challenge and involves as many parties as possible, including teachers, TAs, school management, non-teaching staff, parents, governors, the local community and external organisations. First, it will improve the climate and ethos of the school; second, it will enhance relationships among staff, children and parents; third, it will support the emotional health and well-being of all members of the school community. At its core, this approach looks at individual children relating to family (at home) and their peers (at school) within a community as part of the wider society.

Children are exposed to all sorts of risk factors, from families where punitive discipline is the norm, to violent images in games, films and cartoons. But we can counteract these risks - for example, by helping children learn to manage strong emotions.

School policies to prevent violence need to support learning methods that promote co-operative values and train pupils in effective communication. Teachers and TAs can model this way of relating to one another by getting pupils to work together in groups and by promoting these values in lessons. They can also foster this approach indirectly through the way in which they relate to staff and pupils.

Professor Helen Cowie is director of the UK Observatory for the Promotion of Non-Violence at the University of Surrey's faculty of health and medical sciences



- Encourage pupils to co-operate with one another in groups so they learn to relate to one another without violence.

- Get the whole school community involved in promoting an atmosphere where violence is unacceptable.


- Take no for an answer from the headteacher. This situation needs to be dealt with.

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