Violence against teachers rising

VIOLENCE against teachers in schools has reached “worrying” levels in East Anglia, a teaching union has warned.The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) said a survey of its members in 2,000 schools in the region uncovered 287 incidents over just 30 days last year.

By Jonathan Barnes

VIOLENCE against teachers in schools has reached “worrying” levels in East Anglia, a teaching union has warned.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) said a survey of its members in 2,000 schools in the region uncovered 287 incidents over just 30 days last year.

One Suffolk headteacher said last night the figures were a symptom of “more aggressive and violent times” and admitted the problem was increasing.


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There were 32 incidents in Suffolk over the six-week period last November and December, and 49 incidents in Essex.

Last week, the NASUWT's north west region published its own behaviour survey, which showed children as young as four attacked their teachers verbally and physically on a daily basis.

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The eastern region survey showed that of the 287 incidents, 75 - or about a quarter - involved physical attacks.

Boys accounted for three quarters of the abuse, while second year GCSE pupils were responsible for nearly a third of all the incidents.

Just under 13% were committed by primary age children and adults were responsible for about 7% of the attacks.

Teachers reported being bitten, scratched, kicked, punched and spat at. Chairs were thrown at them and their personal property was damaged, victims reported.

In one case, a girl pushed a teacher over a desk while being “egged on by her classmates”.

One female teacher lost three and a half stone and her confidence suffered, the union said, as a result of being subjected to a barrage of abuse about her size.

Twenty-six of the incidents in Suffolk were verbal and six were physical. In Essex, 34 were verbal complaints and 15 physical - and in 26 cases the teacher concerned was “unhappy” with the action taken.

The Government is pumping more than £400 million over the next three years into a drive to improve behaviour and cut truancy levels.

Earlier this year, a survey showed schools thought behaviour had improved over the course of 2002.

But NASUWT general secretary Eamonn O'Kane was sceptical about the findings.

Children as young as seven swore at teachers in the eastern region too, according to the survey, while one 13-year-old alleged told a teacher who had confiscated his baseball cap: “Why don't you buy your own instead of pinching others?”

Mr O'Kane said: “This survey demonstrates a very worrying picture and highlights the necessity for teachers and schools to record incidents of abuse.

“The reporting system should be as simple as possible and should, of course, be acted upon as part of a vigorous campaign to combat such abuse, including the use of temporary and permanent exclusions.

“The survey unfortunately confirms the findings of a similar exercise in the north west region that these incidents of verbal and physical abuse reflect the national picture rather than localised problems.”

Martin Liddle, headteacher of Stoke High School in Ipswich, said: “I think we are living in more aggressive and violent times in general.

“You see that towards parents and I think teachers are part of that agenda too. It has become an increasing factor that we have to build in.

“There is an increasingly more aggressive approach to a lot of things in authority. We have to recognise it and have strategies in school. Pupil management is more of an issue than it was.

“I think parents are finding it more difficult day-to-day are we are legally in place of those parents during school days.”

Last night a spokesman for Essex County Council education services said: "There is no doubt that the last decade has seen a significant increase in the number of assaults on members of staff in schools, usually teachers.

"Although these cases are still rare, they are wholly unnacceptable.

"The large majority of assaults on teachers are made by the pupils themsleves, and there has even been evidence of teachers being struck by young infant children."

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