Heads are hit by wave of violence

7th April 2000 at 01:00
Surge in assaults by parents and pupils prompts dozens of compensation claims

HEADTEACHERS are increasingly seeking criminal injuries compensation, following a rising number of assaults by violent pupils and parents.

In the past year, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has awarded more than pound;100,000 each to two heads forced to retire early after being attacked by pupils. In neither incident - one at a special school in the Midlands, the other at a Church primary in outer London - was the pupil prosecuted.

Claims from heads are averaging around pound;4,000 to pound;5,000.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We have definitely seen an increase in the number of assaults on NAHT members in the past few years." An association officer said she had dealt with hundreds of incidents. The NAHT has up to a dozen compensation claims ongoing at any time.

This week an NAHT survey revealed that thousands of heads had experienced problems with violent and abusive parents, and dealing with them was one of the greatest demands on their time.

But when cases have reached magistrates courts, the results have often proved disappointing, with offenders bound over to keep the peace or given community service.

Mr Hart has called for firmer sentences and tougher police action to bring attackers to justice. He said: "We have got to send the message that you simply can't behave in this way towards people who are trying to educate your children." Assaults by parents tended to be triggered by complaints that their child was misbehaving, or peforming poorly academically, or accusations that he or she was not being treated properly, he said.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said the number of assault cases this academic year looked set to be up on last. He said: "It also appears that it is the family or friends of the pupil who are most likely to be involved."

Teachers are increasingly threatening to strike in protest at being forced to teach violent pupils. Unions believe the Government's drive to cut the number of exclusions has made the problem of violence in schools worse.

News, 6

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