Our front line deserves protection

3rd October 2008 at 01:00

The clear message of the 160-page National Behaviour and Attendance Review report was that teachers in Wales feel increasingly under threat from their pupils. Classrooms in Wales were generally well-ordered, according to the review's researchers, but growing incidents of violence and threatening behaviour were making teachers feel uneasy.

The findings were backed up this week by the latest statistics from the Assembly government, showing an eight per cent rise in permanent exclusions for pupil violence.

Lasting exclusions for weapon-carrying in Wales's schools is also on the up. It would have almost been unbelievable a decade ago that reception pupils would be punished with fixed-term exclusions because of extreme bad behaviour, including violence, but there were 47 in 2006-07.

Professor Reid, chair of the review group, said he hoped the report's many recommendations would be acted upon swiftly. But progress has been frustratingly slow. Almost six months after the report was produced, there have only been government promises to improve behaviour management courses for teachers. Professor Reid would contend much more is needed to protect teachers in the line of duty; both from injury and false allegations of abuse.

In today's TES Cymru he repeats the review group's call for more guidelines for teachers on physical restraint, which he believes is so vital for peace of mind to teachers on the front line.

Exactly why violence is increasing in the classroom is a complex social issue, and one on which experts frequently disagree.

But surely with the publication of these new figures there is now an Assembly government responsibility to offer teachers more protection.

Of course, guidelines can't protect teachers when faced with a knife- wielding pupil threatening violence, thankfully not the norm in Wales's schools, but something not to be ruled out.

But as another story in TES Cymru demonstrates this week, there are still dozens of allegations of abuse made against teachers in Wales being investigated this year. All allegations of abuse must be taken seriously, but teachers are open to false allegations every day of their working week. They must be granted more protection in their public service.

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