Education staff facing physical violence from pupils

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A recent survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has shown that four out of 10 teachers had been physically assaulted by children over the previous year.

More than three quarters said they had been pushed or shoved, around half were kicked or had had an “object” such as a piece of furniture thrown at them, and more than a third had been punched.
Just under half felt pupil behaviour had got worse in the past two years, and the figures back them up.

Of those who have experienced physical violence from a pupil, 77% have been pushed or shoved; 52% have been kicked; 50% have had an object such as furniture thrown at them, and 37% have been punched.

Eighty-nine per cent of teachers have dealt with challenging or disruptive pupils in the last year. Support staff also have to deal with challenging or disruptive behaviour, with 90% stating they had dealt with it in the last year.

During their career, 94% of education staff say the challenging or disruptive behaviour targeted at both staff and pupils was verbal, such as insults, threats, derogatory comments, swearing, shouting, making accusations or being rude. Sixty-eight per cent have had to deal with physical aggression such as pushing, spitting, scratching, kicking, punching, hitting, stabbing, having furniture/equipment thrown. Fifty-two per cent said they have dealt with bullying, 40% said pupils were breaking or ruining the belongings of another person, and 24% have dealt with cyber bullying on social media.

Half (50.8%) of staff said dealing with pupils' challenging or disruptive behaviour has caused them stress and 41% said it has caused them anxiety. Ten per cent have had to visit the doctor as a result.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: "It is shocking that more than four-in-ten (43%) education professionals have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil in the last year. No member of staff should be subjected to aggressive behaviour, in any form, while doing their job."

According to the Department for Education, 18,970 pupils at primary and secondary schools were temporarily excluded in 2013-2014 because of physical attacks on teachers and other adults – obstruction, jostling, biting, kicking, hair-pulling – compared with 17,190 the previous year. (The number of permanent exclusions for physical assault against an adult also increased, from 490 to 550.)

Three quarters of trainee and newly qualified teachers have considered leaving the profession, according to a 2015 ATL survey. Of those, 25% said challenging pupil behaviour was the reason. Meanwhile, a 2014 joint survey by the ATL and ITV News found that more than a quarter of teachers had faced aggression from a student’s parents or carers in the past year. 

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