Four in 10 teachers 'attacked by pupils'

Four out of 10 teachers have experienced violence from pupils in the past year, a survey suggests.

Of the 1,250 staff surveyed by the ATL teachers union, 77% said they had been pushed or shoved and around half were kicked or had an object thrown at them.

Nine out of 10 staff had dealt with challenging behaviour, such as swearing or shouting, in the past year.

The government said teachers now had greater powers to search pupils and the use of force had been clarified.

However, 45% of the panel of teachers surveyed across England, Wales and Northern Ireland said they felt pupil behaviour had got worse in the past two years. Teachers in Scotland were not included in the survey.

One special needs worker at a Bedfordshire primary school said she had been stabbed in the head with a pencil, while a teacher at a Suffolk secondary academy said she had been "sprayed in the face with deodorant".

In a third case, a support worker at a secondary school in Cheshire said a chair had been thrown that hit her leg.

A teaching assistant at a Rochdale primary school claimed: "Staff are regularly verbally abused with very little consequences. Occasionally pupils physically attack members of staff, but this rarely leads to a day's exclusion."

Teachers in the survey put the cause of violence down to a number of things. A lack of boundaries at home was singled out as the top reason for challenging, disruptive or violent behaviour.

Some 78% pointed to emotional and behavioural problems as the cause, while nearly half said it was down to pupils' mental health issues.

And nearly two-thirds of teachers felt pupils were under more stress than two years ago.

General secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr Mary Bousted, said having to cope with challenging or disruptive behaviour is unfortunately par for the course for education staff.

"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."

There have been numerous warnings about the pressures on schools resulting from a lack of mental health services in some areas.

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 taken decisive action to put teachers back in charge of the classroom by giving them the powers they need to tackle poor behaviour and discipline.

"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."

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