THE Executive's critics may be right to claim that the threefold increase in violence against school staff over the past four years represents the tip of an under-reported iceberg. There may equally be over-reporting. The point is that there seems little way of knowing the extent to which staff define relatively minor verbal abuse from pupils as constituting violence - particularly since the data covers "anti-social behaviour" as well.
But one thing is sure - the Executive and local councils cannot go on claiming that increases are due, like rising cases of child abuse, simply to growing awareness and therefore improved reporting. As the time approaches when serious efforts will have to be made to persuade people to take up a career in teaching, the authorities can ill afford ugly headlines.
Neither can the Executive afford the impression to be gained that these incidents are generated by its inclusion policies, although the fact that 60 per cent of incidents involved pupils with special educational needs may point strongly to that conclusion. The reporting and monitoring of incidents need to be much more rigorous and detailed before we can draw any real conclusions.