Physical assaults against teachers on the rise in Suffolk and Essex
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Two teachers are physically assaulted by pupils every day at schools in Suffolk and Essex, “distressing” new figures show.
Cutbacks in mental health services and social support were last night blamed for the rise in violence against school staff.
The news comes amid ongoing concern over teacher recruitment and retention and the effects of classroom disorder on staff shortages.
New Department for Education data shows the number of fixed period exclusions for physical assaults against adults in primary, secondary, and special schools in Suffolk rose by 46% in a year, from 340 in 2014/15 to 498 in 2015/16.
The overall number of all fixed period exclusions rose by 16%, from 3,720 to 4,300 in Suffolk.
Assaults can range from being strangled, punched and kicked to having tables and chairs thrown at teachers. Nationally, around one if five result in a fracture. Only about one in 200 results in concussions or internal injuries.
Margaret Bulaitis, secretary of the Ipswich NUT (National Union of Teachers), described the findings as “really distressing”.
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She said: “It is awful to think that teachers, who go into teaching to help young people, are finding themselves in situations where they are experiencing physical violence. There are many reasons for this. Resources in schools that would have been in place to support young people with emotional issues have been stripped away due to school funding and local authority cuts.
“Many of our young people are coming into schools with mental health difficulties which are also not being addressed by cuts in CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services).”
She said stagnant wages and workload are the main reasons for teacher recruitment issues.
In Essex, physical assaults against adults, which include teachers and support staff, increased from 470 to 501. Overall numbers rose from 6,560 to 7,008.
In Suffolk, there were another 11 permanent exclusions for physical assaults against adults in 2015/16, up from nine. It rose from eight to 12 in Essex.
Essex NUT general secretary Jerry Glazier cited “local authority, health services, and social services cutbacks”.
He said: “We need to target the causes, not the symptoms. There is insufficient capacity in the support system, whether it is through CAMHS or pressures of the social services system.”
A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “Where the local authority is notified of a serious incident, we will work with the school and the police to respond to this.”