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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 12:06 GMT
One-a-day violence against teachers
Teachers fear false accusations if they break up fights
Violent attacks against teachers by pupils are being reported at the rate of one a day, says a teachers' union.

And fuelling the indiscipline is pupils' awareness that teachers have only limited sanctions against them.

The comments come as an industrial tribunal hears claims that a teacher in London had been assaulted by pupils and faced a climate of intimidation.

Aggression against teachers
85,000 teachers have experienced pupil "aggression'' over two years
297 teachers took three or more days off work due to assault
58,000 teachers have experienced parental "aggression" over two years

Source: Teacher Support Network

"Teachers are expected to put up with the type of behaviour that if it happened anywhere else would be treated as a criminal act," says Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

And he says that the violence faced by school staff is "in a nutshell, a reflection of the increasing number of dysfunctional families and dysfunctional parents".

"We need to get these disruptive youngsters out of school more quickly - and there need to be enough alternative places for these pupils."

And he says that there has been an upsurge in requests from teachers wanting to hold ballots to refuse to teach disruptive pupils.

However statistics on legal proceedings following assaults on the union's members show that there has been a drop in cases since a peak in 1997.

Last year, legal action was taken in 23 cases, compared with 57 cases in 1997. This represented a big increase on 1991, when there were only seven cases.

But these figures only represent a small proportion of a wider problem - and the Teacher Support Network says that there are tens of thousands of incidents of verbal and physical intimidation and aggression each year.

The support network, which operates a helpline offering advice to teachers, says that there were 85,000 cases of pupil aggression towards teachers over two years.

The problem with indiscipline also reflects the way "the professional role of teachers has been diminished over the years", said a union spokesperson.

And also teachers were reluctant to enforce discipline, such as breaking up fights, in case they became the subject of malicious allegations from pupils.

"Teachers are frightened of getting involved, and worried about the language they can use, in case it is misrepresented afterwards."

There were also problems with parents who could not enforce any discipline on their own children and who expected teachers to act as "surrogate parents".

"There are parents who come to school and say that they cannot get their children to put on their shoes, or go to the dentist or whatever, and they expect the teachers to take on the responsibilities of a parent."

See also:

13 Feb 02 | Education
Getting parents in line at school
28 May 01 | Education
Violent parents in 'school rage'
25 Feb 02 | Education
Special orders curbing pupils
23 Mar 01 | Education
Parents warned: No 'aggro' in school
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