Safer teachers

15th November 2002 at 00:00
THE announcement in the Queen's Speech that the Government is to step up its offensive against anti-social behaviour by parents and pupils will be welcomed as a signal that teachers have a right to work free from the fear of assault. In these devolutionary times, it remains to be seen whether similar action is likely in Scotland.

But new legislation may amount to no more than symbolic sympathy. The courts already have sanctions to deal with incidents of assault or breach of the peace. In the past few months in London and Sheffield, two parents were jailed for attacks on teachers.

There is a limit to what ministers can do. Parents are unlikely to be deterred by the prospect of a brief imprisonment if they are driven by a misplaced zeal for protecting their child. Neither can schools be turned into fortresses, although security is now immeasurably better than it was in the days before Dunblane.

At the end of the day, teachers will only be safe from harm if they enjoy pupils' and parents' confidence. That is not a one-way street and it is not just confined to schools. Politicians need to play their part by ensuring that confidence in teachers is not needlessly undermined. It is only where mutual respect is established that teachers and parents will find themselves on the same side.

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