Forty percent of teachers suffer violence from pupils

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A survey by the ATL teachers union suggests that four out of 10 teachers have experienced violence from pupils in the past year.

According to the survey, forty-three per cent of education staff said they have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil last year. 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.

With ever-more concern over the retention of teachers, worryingly, over a third (35%) said poor pupil behaviour has led them to consider a change of profession and over a quarter (26%) had considered a change of school.

Almost half (45%) stated they believe the behaviour of pupils' has got worse in the past two years

Eight-five per cent cited a lack of boundaries at home as the main reason pupils are displaying challenging, disruptive or violent behaviour. Seventy-eight per cent believe emotional and behavioural problems are the causes, and half (49.8%) said poor behaviour is a result of pupils having mental health issues.

Over a third (36%) said relentless testing and pressure for high exams results has a negative effect on pupils' challenging, disruptive or violent behaviour. Furthermore, 62% believe pupils are under more pressure and stress now than two years ago.

Respondents reported that dealing with pupils' challenging or disruptive behaviour has a huge impact of the rest of the class with 83% stating it disrupts the work of other pupils.

ATL general secretary, Mary Bousted, says the vast majority of pupils are well-behaved and a pleasure to teach.

But what the survey does reveal is that poor behaviour is often the result of deep-seated issues such as unsupported mental health problems or poor parenting.

And the responsibility for dealing with these problems goes far beyond the school gates, let alone the classroom.

She said: "It is shocking that more than four in 10 (43%) education professionals have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil in the last year," she said.

"No member of staff should be subjected to aggressive behaviour, in any form, while doing their job.

"A lack of funds for social services and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) means pupils are at risk and, all too often, school staff are being left to plug the gaps in social care as best they can.

"Many schools do excellent work day in, day out to help pupils stay on track and to keep schools a safe place for pupils and staff.

"But schools need support from social and health services and parents to deal with the complex issues many pupils face due to chaotic home lives or mental health issues.

"Schools need firm and consistent discipline policies in place and support from parents to ensure they support pupils the best they can."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "Teachers and school staff have a right to feel safe while doing their jobs and violence towards them is completely unacceptable.

"We have scrapped 'no touch' rules that stopped teachers removing disruptive pupils from classrooms and ensured schools' decisions on exclusions can no longer be overruled."

Professional Development Today
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