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Monday, February 16, 1998 Published at 13:18 GMT


Block and guide - but no slaps, teachers told
image: [ Some teachers say they are afraid to intervene for fear of prosecution ]
Some teachers say they are afraid to intervene for fear of prosecution

The Education Minister, Estelle Morris, has defended the government's guidelines on teachers' use of force from union critics who say attacks could be provoked.

BBC Education Correspondent Sue Littlemore explains the new rules (0'54")
Under the new rules, teachers are to be permitted to use reasonable force to control violent and unruly pupils.

They replace previous guidance, which many teachers complained was unclear and left them powerless before disruptive children.

The General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, Nigel de Gruchy, said he feared teachers would be encouraged to intervene in dangerous situations.

"That is when they are at their greatest risk of assault," he said.

Rules to clarify position

Estelle Morris defends the guidelines (1'44")
But the education minister denied her department's advice could create more trouble than it solves.

"What we've said in these guidelines is that no teacher, when they're dealing with a child in this way, should fear either disciplinary action or action in the courts. I think that this will clarify the situation."

She added: "There's obviously circumstances where a teacher may have gone too far and used physical force that was too strong. It doesn't protect them from hitting a child or pulling a child's hair or anything like that."

The guidelines follow growing concern over violence in schools after a number of attacks on teachers.

Teachers are already allowed to use "reasonable force" to restrain and protect pupils in their care.

But many have complained that the precise interpretation of those powers is unclear.

Prosecution worries

Some say they feel unable to deal effectively with classroom incidents, for fear that they themselves could be prosecuted for assault.

The new advice issued by the Department for Education says that teachers might intervene if pupils are fighting or persistently disobeying an order to leave the class.

It describes reasonable force as blocking a pupil's path, or shepherding the child away with a hand on their back.

But teachers are told they should not pull a pupil by the ears or slap, except in exceptional circumstances.

Nigel de Gruchy responds to Katie Ivens of the Campaign for Real Education (1'12")
However, Mr de Gruchy, who has led the campaign for greater protection for classroom teachers, said that instead of intervening, teachers should summon help from the police.

His union says assaults on teachers are increasing, partly because of the numbers of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties who are now integrated in mainstream classes.

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