Union calls for assaults register

NASUWT takes Government to task over lack of accurate data on violence against teachers. Jon Slater reports

A national register of physical and verbal assaults on public-sector workers should be set up as a step towards tackling violence against teachers, a teacher union has said.

In a motion submitted to the Trades Union Congress, the NASUWT takes the Government to task for refusing to collect accurate information about the scale of the problem.

Accounts of violence by pupils and parents against teachers are a regular feature of teacher union conferences. Last month, Dexter Hungwa, a 16-year-old who punched Liz Jones, a headteacher, in the face and broke her cheekbone, escaped jail after admitting grevious bodily harm.

Ms Jones, head of Abbey Manor college, Lewisham, London, said the system was failing to protect teachers: "When there is an offence, it is not being treated seriously and so, as the victim, it is like being punched again."

At present, the only official national record of assaults against teachers is held by the Health and Safety Executive which records significant injuries reported to it. These show the number of injuries caused by assaults against teachers rose from 101 in 20012 to 148 in 20023, with pupil attacks being solely responsible for the rise.

But there was a sharp fall in the number of reported attacks to a total of 60 in 20034.

Ministers have admitted they have no explanation for the changes. Union casework suggests the true number of serious assaults is much higher.

The NASUWT's casework shows the number of assaults against teachers pursued by the union increased from seven in 1991 to 122 in 2005. Of these, 118 were assaults by pupils, two by parents and two by intruders to school.

The demand for a register of assaults on teachers is one of six motions submitted by the three teacher organisations to the annual TUC conference in Brighton next month.

As The TES revealed earlier this month, the NASUWT is also calling for jail sentences for governors of schools which deny teachers their legal right to better working conditions.

The National Union of Teachers is pressing the TUC to highlight the problem of workplace bullying and to campaign to block proposals for trust schools contained in the Education Bill currently before Parliament.

A motion from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warns the Government's "pre-occupation with diversity and independence of secondary school contradicts its earlier mantra of 'standards not structures," and calls on it instead to reform testing and the curriculum in schools.

It also wants the TUC to condemn Google, the internet search engine, for responding to political pressure from governments, including China's, to limit access to information on the web.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the proposal for an assaults register was backed by unions representing firefighters and civil servants. "The only information we have about assaults is based on surveys or anecdotes. We know some employers are not recording them, either because they do not know they should or because they do not want others to know there is a problem.

"Nobody should have to go to work in fear of being verbally or physically assaulted," she said.

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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