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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 15:32 GMT
Daily abuse teachers are facing
Teacher Lesley Ward
Lesley Ward: Aggression all in a day's work

She has been kicked, bitten, scratched, pushed and hit - but Doncaster primary school teacher Lesley Ward does not consider she has been assaulted.


When they first come into school, 'no' for some means if they nag enough they'll get a 'yes'

Lesley Ward
It is all part of the job nowadays, she says - "water off a duck's back".

"If I'd been really physically assaulted, there's no way I would have been able to stand up before the conference today and propose a motion to better protect teachers - I would have broken down, because it would be too traumatic, too near the mark."

Proposing the motion - which was passed unanimously - Ms Ward told delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference that teachers' human rights were breached on a daily basis as they grew to accept verbal and physical attacks.

Abuse happened in all types of educational establishments, from nursery to sixth form level, in the private and the state sectors and in inner cities and rural areas, Lesley told the conference.

"It takes the form of kicking, punching, pushing, tripping, spitting, throwing missiles, swearing and intimidation," she said.

She had even been urinated on.

And the message being conveyed to unruly pupils and parents was "it's okay - it's only a teacher".

'No means no'

Lesley believes the problem lies in pupils' not being "socialised" at home in the early years and not being able to control their anger.

"When they first come into school, 'no' for some means if they nag enough they'll get a 'yes'.

"So when they find no really does mean no, they have a temper tantrum.

"And when they have a paddy - especially pupils with special needs - it can involve pushing, kicking, spitting, and so on.

"It just doesn't faze me anymore - it's how children react to the world not going their way," says Lesley.

Abuse from parents

The most frightening incident for her was when the father of one of her pupils came into school and "had a really good shout at me".

"He was effing and blinding and threatening me - I was really scared."

On another occasion Lesley hid in a store cupboard because she was frightened of what one mother might do.

And parents who intimidate teachers are not just those from low-income or deprived backgrounds, the middle class, "pushy" parents could be just as bad.

Time to go?

"I have a friend who teaches in the 'posh' area of town, and she'll get things like 'My child will get a Level 4, won't they?' or 'We've bought all the books' - now that's a form of intimidation, isn't it?"

Lesley said the majority of parents were highly supportive of her work - she even considered some parents among her friends.

But the 2 or 3% of troublemakers obscured the well-behaved majority, she said.

At 47, she is considering bowing out of the profession.

"It's not just bad behaviour, it's the drip of government interference, the gradual erosion of respect for teachers.

"If teaching is so good why did Estelle Morris leave the classroom?"

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 ON THIS STORY
Teacher Lesley Ward
"Parents need to be told that their children are expected to behave, are expected to follow rules"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Parenting
Your views on unruly children
See also:

26 Mar 02 | UK Education
24 Mar 02 | UK Education
28 May 01 | UK Education
25 Feb 02 | UK Education
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