Behaviour: verbal abuse

9th July 2010 at 01:00
The problem: I work in a school where pupils often verbally abuse staff. Usually they receive a short detention or suspension, but we are expected to take them back the next lesson and continue as if nothing had happened. Must I put up with the abuse?

What you said

"The schools I have worked at have had a standard punishment of internal exclusion if a kid tells you to f*** off or similar. Seems to work as it doesn't happen that often and there is an audible gasp around the room when it does."


"In my school, pupils are excluded for the day if they swear at staff. It is the one thing the head is clear on: she will not have staff verbally abused. However, swearing is part of kids' speech now and we have to be realistic. In my experience, most have the sense to realise it is unacceptable to swear in front of adults and apologise."


"An absolute zero tolerance of swearing at staff with guaranteed internal exclusion for all incidents would be my suggestion - a policy which would have to be implemented by your senior team so it's unlikely you can do much about it."



It is your right to work in an environment that is free from abuse and intimidation - no exceptions. Anyone working with young people will be aware that, among some, there is a culture which takes a perverse pride in being abusive and intimidating. That is a fact, not an excuse or justification. As educators, we share a common responsibility to reject and address abusive conduct.

The behaviour-management policy of your school should have specific responses to abusive conduct. These should be graduated to reflect the seriousness of the incident. It is the responsibility of all staff to expect appropriate behaviour, model it in their conduct and enforce effective sanctions.

If the behaviour-management policy of your school is not being enforced, you should have an informal meeting with your line manager to discuss this. If the policy is being fully enforced but lacks the capacity to provide you with the support you feel you need, it may be appropriate to raise the matter with a member of the leadership team, but take advice from your professional association first.

Collaboration and co-operation should always be the first steps. On completion of a sanction, lessons must continue but this should be preceded by some form of reintegration. At its most basic this should be a face-to-face meeting where the pupil apologises.

Stephen Calladine-Evans is assistant principal at St Richard's Catholic College, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex. For more behaviour advice, go to



- Ask for a meeting with your line manager if the school's behaviour policy is not being enforced.

- Reflect on when the abusive behaviour happens as a basis for devising your own strategies.

- Insist on some form of integration, such as an apology or a meeting with parents, before the pupil returns to the class.


- Accept a pupil who has verbally abused you back into your class as if nothing had happened.

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