Big rise in attacks on staff

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Behaviour clampdown fails to arrest pupil violence. Michael Shaw reports.

Violent assaults by pupils on school staff rose by a third last year despite attempts to clamp down on 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.

Figures calculated by the Health and Safety Executive also indicate that twice as many teachers suffered such severe injuries that they needed to be resuscitated or kept in hospital.

They also show the number of teachers with major injuries, including amputations, fractures and dislocated joints, doubled from 27 to 55.

The executive's figures mostly represent injuries to teachers and classroom assistants but include attacks on a handful of other school staff such as school 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, the school standards minister, asked the HSE to provide the statistics in response to 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 that too many schools will continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle of severe indiscipline and high staff turn-over."

The Government is spending more than pound;470 million over three years on improving classroom discipline by methods such as employing mentors and introducing school-based police officers.

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

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills 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 of the NASUWT, said: "These figures are of deep concern and show the national focus on behaviour in schools is justified. "We hope that 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 numbers are collected differently.

However, figures from the HSE, which include the more common problems of accidents and work-related ill health, indicate that the number of school staff who had needed to take three days off work or been kept in hospital has fallen by a third since 2001, while there have been increases among people working in businesses, transport and catering.

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


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