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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Teachers refuse violent pupils
Teachers in 25 schools held ballots to refuse to teach violent pupils

Angered by classroom violence, teachers are increasingly refusing to allow dangerously aggressive youngsters back into the classroom.

So far this year, teachers in 25 schools have organised ballots to refuse to teach out-of-control pupils.

These ballots have followed incidents where teachers have been punched, head-butted, bitten, shot with a ball-bearing gun and victimised by obscene phone calls.

In a case in a secondary school in Essex this year, a ballot was held to boycott teenage pupils who had kicked and punched a disabled cleaner.

Pupils punched and kicked a disabled member of the cleaning staff. The staff member went to hospital, and was so traumatised by the incident that he was unable to return to the school
Violent incident that prompted teachers at an Essex school to ballot for a boycott

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, whose members have held these ballots, says that in other cases, the threat of holding a ballot has been enough for a violent pupil to be found a place elsewhere.

The union's general secretary, Eamonn O'Kane, says that this sends a message that "enough is enough" and that where a school or authority fails to act against violent pupils, teachers will take their own action.

And he says that parents are supportive, as the pupils who have been violent towards teachers might also have posed a threat to other pupils.

Kicked and punched

Ballots by teachers were initially associated with cases where appeals panels had sought to reinstate violent pupils who had been excluded.

But despite appeals regulations having been changed to reduce such conflicts, the tactic of using boycott ballots has continued.

Eamonn O'Kane
Eamonn O'Kane says teachers do not have to put up with violence

And it has proved to be effective. For instance, after a ballot was held to boycott a pupil in Yorkshire who had bitten, kicked and punched teachers, the local authority took him off the school roll.

Another example from Surrey in March, involved a 15 year old boy, who "assaulted a member of staff, head-butting him when asked for his homework book".

Television violence

His permanent exclusion was overturned by an independent appeal panel - and in response, a "ballot for action was held and action was taken. The pupil was accommodated in another school and action was withdrawn".

The teachers' union has published research which is seeking to find the scale of the problem and its possible causes.

And its first findings, based on a survey of teachers, has identified three main causes for pupil violence: poor parenting skills, "dysfunctional" families and children mimicking violent television programmes.

Teachers say that they are forced to pick up the pieces from broader social ills - such as families that have no control over their children and a culture of aggression and indifference to others.

"Where families are not functioning, for whatever reason, parents do not seem to have the time or energy to support schools in their efforts maintain reasonable levels of behaviour," said Mr O'Kane.

'Yobbish behaviour'

Education Minister Ivan Lewis said that "ill-discipline and bad behaviour are a blight on our education system".

"But I simply do not accept that we throw our hands up and surrender to yobbish behaviour, underachievement and disengagement with society," said Mr Lewis.

"That's why we are introducing a range of measures such as parenting contracts and orders to make sure that parents are held accountable for the behaviour of their children.

"We are supporting families by providing one stop shops which provide health and childcare, information and advice and a 24 hour parental advice line.

"We have also reformed the appeals panel process so that headteachers are backed in making difficult decisions to exclude pupils."

But the Conservative education spokesman, Damian Green, said that the government should "give back power to heads to exclude disruptive pupils, restoring authority in our schools and civility in the classroom".

"This is a shocking catalogue of violence in schools, for which the government bears a good deal of responsibility," he said.

"Its target of reducing exclusions by a third, and the introduction of complex and time consuming independent appeals panels have tied the hands of our heads and governors."

Union blacklists violent pupils
27 May 02  |  Education
One-a-day violence against teachers
20 Mar 02  |  Education
Teachers to boycott violent pupils
23 Apr 03  |  Education

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