Slap in the face over a punch in the stomach

15th June 2001 at 01:00
David Henderson reports from Perth on the pressure building up in staffrooms to harden the union's case for a 'radical adjustment' to internal assessment

AN experienced Renfrewshire teacher working with pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties was punched three times in the stomach by a pupil as she waited in the playground for the boy's father to pick him up.

The boy came at her with fists raised. She lifted her hands above her head and asked the boy not to hit her but he lashed out before entering the school and attacking two other members of staff.

Delegates listened in hushed silence as Olwen McGarvey said it had taken her five years to get over the incident. The boy was subsequently charged, although her headteacher criticised the decision to call in the police in his absence. The middle-class, professional father denied witnessing the assaults and "knew how to protect his son from the consequences of his behaviour".

"I found I was unable to cope with being assaulted when I was in the traditional position of surrender, pleading not to be struck. The incident took place immediatel before a holiday which I spent bursting into tears at inappropriate moments and replaying the incident in my head," Mrs McGarvey said.

Holding back tears, she continued: "It was only the fact that I had two weeks to gather myself that I did not have to take time off school. I had no lasting physical damage but I was mentally traumatised and would have been totally unable to work. Unusually, the pupil was not returned to my class or school. I wrote a letter to say I did not have the skills to offer this pupil anything else."

Two years later, she was on a course at which she heard a clinical psychologist describing a pupil who had attended her clinic. It was the same pupil, giving his side of the incident and relationship with the teachers.

"I heard myself described in words I won't repeat and my professionalism and practice called into question by that psychologist in front of my fellow teachers who were unaware it was me," Mrs McGarvey said.

That brought it all back.

She backed calls for greater support for victims of classroom violence, including adequate counselling.

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