'Shame' of school violence

29th April 2005 at 01:00
An experienced teacher this week told how she was left terrified as a pupil she had reprimanded told her he would "be round your place tonight".

During her 35-year career Elizabeth Greed, an English and RE teacher, has been threatened with a knife in the classroom and disarmed a gun-wielding teenager. The threat of a late-night visit from the disgruntled pupil happened earlier this year.

"I feel intimidated, and I have two-and-a-half years to go to retirement.

No one should be forced to work in a situation like that. The stress is ubiquitous. It creeps up on you, until you're in the middle of a spider's web. Teachers need proper support. They need to be able to talk about their experiences."

This week she welcomed a new free training course being offered to teachers who have been victims of classroom violence. Ray Wilkinson, chief executive of Victim Support's workforce training, says it is vital for teachers to have someone to talk to.

He said: "Teachers are embarrassed by classroom violence. They see it as a professional failing. The support they get from people they know is extremely important in getting them back on the road to recovery."

The workshop, made up of two half-day sessions, will include group discussions, in which testimonies will be invited from participants who have experienced classroom violence. There will also be role-playing exercises, to enable teachers to practise support techniques.

Fiona Richmond, head of training, said: "A single event can affect how someone works, and how they sleep. They can lose their appetite and start having headaches. People need to be aware of the hidden impacts. Training will create a greater awareness of how violence, or the threat of violence, can affect someone."

Britain's second biggest teaching union, the NASUWT, last year revealed that a teacher is verbally abused or physically assaulted every nine minutes.

This week Classroom Chaos, a TV documentary revealing secretly-filmed pupil misbehaviour, was screened on Five.

A supply teacher, using the pseudonym Sylvia Thomas, captured various scenes, - including a boy asking her to "suck me off", and another falsely accusing her of touching him - on a concealed camera. Teachers' unions attacked the programme as sensationalist and irresponsible. The Secondary Heads Association wrote to Five, criticising programme-makers for flouting child-protection laws.

This week Tony Blair agreed there was a problem with discipline in some schools. "We have to deal with it," he said. "But don't let's use that to run down the whole of what's happening in education."

This week the Teacher Support Network revealed it received 368 calls about discipline, pupil behaviour and classroom management in 2004, an increase of 45 per cent on the previous year.

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

Course details: (020) 7896 3772 Opinion 22

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