A parents' evening that descended into violence is one of many cases fuelling demands for tougher action on discipline, reports Michael Shaw
VISITORS to a parents' evening at a Kent girls' school had to be locked in to protect them from rampaging teenagers, a teacher revealed this week.
The incident, which took place last term, was one of dozens of cases raised by delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference.
Members unanimously called for tougher action against indiscipline in the classroom and the abolition of exclusion appeals panels which can return pupils to schools.
Speaking after the debate, Jonathan Absalom, a physics teacher at St George's C of E school in Gravesend, said his school and others in north Kent had been hit by a rash of incidents where excluded pupils and other teenagers wandered on to their sites and caused havoc.
At St George's a teacher was assaulted by intruders, while two members of staff at another school were also attacked recently, one suffering a cracked jaw.
Mr Absalom said lessons at a third school were disrupted when teenagers smashed all of a classroom's windows during a lesson. "These are the more horrendous examples, but the low-level intimidation is a daily occurrence and it is almost worse than the violence because it permeates the schools," he said.
Other teachers at the conference reported cases where colleagues had been punched, scratched, and shot at with pellet guns.
Ron Clooney, a Southampton secondary teacher, was one of several delegates to blame the Government's insistence on inclusion for a rise in bullying and misbehaviour. "We are urged to give kids Mars bars when they are walking around with iron bars," he said.
NASUWT members held ballots to refuse to teach violent or disruptive pupils in 30 schools last year and took industrial action in 27. Delegates said lower-level indiscipline, such as chewing gum or refusing to carry out tasks, was a growing problem.
Juanita Ward, a secondary teacher from Solihull, said: "There are usually a handful of pupils in every class who would never become violent but seem to have a 'passive resistance' approach to education - and it's catching."
Delegates also called for anonymity for teachers who had been accused of abusing pupils to protect them from malicious allegations.
Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary, said that within the past 12 years 1,624 union members had faced child abuse investigations and the vast majority had been exonerated. "Many cannot sustain family relationships, have nervous breakdowns and cannot return to the classroom when the ordeal is over," he said.
The day after Mike Wilson was attacked by a pupil he discovered his ribs had been cracked.
The religious education teacher had been walking down a corridor at his school holding a ring-binder full of work when the 15-year-old pupil ran up and slammed the folder into his chest.
"I'd not had any problems with him before, though other teachers had complained about him," Mr Wilson said. "But he had just had an argument with someone else and wanted to let it out on someone."
Mr Wilson, 52, considers himself lucky. He reported the incident to his headteacher and the school, Grove secondary in Newark, Nottinghamshire, immediately expelled the pupil.
Other teachers in the region have not received so much support from their schools, he said. Two years after his attack he has conducted a survey to measure the level of abuse suffered by fellow NASUWT members in Nottinghamshire.
Since posting the questionnaires last month he has received more than 320 replies, which include 58 reports of physical assaults and 125 cases of verbal abuse.