Drop in number of teachers injured by pupils

7th February 2003 at 00:00
Union calls for tougher action against violent and abusive children.

Helen Ward reports

ALMOST three teachers a week were victims of serious assaults at work last academic year, official statistics reveal. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that 147 teachers were off for more than three days as a result of injuries caused by violence in 20012.

The provisional figures, released in a parliamentary answer, include 23 assaults serious enough to require hospital treatment.

The number of serious assaults on teachers fell, from 171 in the previous year - a finding welcomed by the classroom unions.

But Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "No figure is acceptable except zero. There cannot be any excuse for attacking a teacher.

"Schools should take very firm action, including legal action against the youngster or parent involved. Any pupil guilty of this should be permanently excluded."

Tough new guidance that came into effect last month said pupils that were excluded for serious or threatened violence should no longer be reinstated by independent appeals panels.

Mr O'Kane said: "Violent assaults are still rare, though less rare than they should be, but what is not rare is verbal aggression which is something many teachers have to endure.

"That is also serious because it can have a damaging and stressful effect on teachers and it has a very corrosive effect on the relationship between teachers and pupils."

One teacher on The TES website wrote: "At least once a week I was told to 'f*** off'. In one year I filled in 250 slips detailing bad behaviour, of which a third were for bad language directed at me."

The National Union of Teachers said it was a relief to see the number of serious assaults had gone down. A spokeswoman said: "But any incident is unacceptable. There are 420,000 teachers in 24,000 schools in England, so schools are not overrun by violence. The biggest problem is the low-level disruption, the aggressive body language and verbal assaults."

Separate figures released by the Scottish Executive last week revealed there were 5,412 incidents of physical and verbal abuse against teachers in Scotland during the past academic year.

In 44 per cent of cases, the assaults were physical; in 29 per cent, the issue was extreme swearing; and in the remaining cases, abuse was both verbal and physical.

Incidents could also take the form of deliberate damage to personal property and threatening behaviour with or without a weapon.

Children with special needs were the assailants in 60 per cent of the Scottish cases.

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