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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Teachers demand action on assaults
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff, Bournemouth

school corridor
Teachers say assaults go unreported for image reasons
Teachers have called on heads to report every assault by a pupil to the police.

Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Bournemouth also voted for prosecutions as "a matter of course".

They heard that teachers deserved the same protection at work as nurses and bus drivers.

ATL members also voted for pupils who falsely accused staff of assault to be prosecuted.

'Duty of care'

David Hytch, the ATL branch secretary for North Wales, told the conference: "On a recent visit to hospital, I had a look at the notice board.

"My gaze fell across a notice saying assaults on staff would not be tolerated and lead to prosecution.

"You see similar notices at doctors' surgeries, on buses and in customs halls.

"Teachers deserve the same level of protection. Head teachers have a duty of care as employers."

Delegates heard that head teachers often did not report allegations of assault on teachers to preserve the image of their school.

Some argued that the government should reintroduce the "special priority allowance", which used to be paid to staff working in tough schools in the 1960s and 1970s.

'Career ended'

The motion before ATL members called on local authorities to make their policy on this "clear and explicit".

One former teacher, Phil Baker, from Swindon, said he had had his career ended by an assault by an angry parent.

The parent had received a conditional discharge and been fined 100 after chasing Mr Baker and trying to rip the door off a cupboard he entered to protect himself.

The teacher said: "I don't feel the law is protecting me as a teacher. We need action."

Bob Martin, ATL branch secretary for Oxfordshire, said one woman teacher had been suspended and later cautioned for "reckless assault" after defending herself from a violent pupil while supervising a dinner queue.

'Political correctness'

Last year, a survey by the General Teaching Council of England found one third of staff expected to leave the profession within five years.

Poor pupil behaviour was one of the main reasons cited.

The conference passed the motion calling for more action on anti-teacher violence without a single vote against.

Meanwhile, Sam Becher, a member of the ATL's national executive, said "political correctness" was putting teachers at a disadvantage in cases where pupils accused them of assault.

Children's "uncorroborated" stories were being taken at face value, with automatic suspensions for staff.

This, Mr Becher added, was "not justified in statute law, common law or case law".

Deterrent

Jonathan Ross, a student teacher from Cambridge University, said several people had resigned from his course over the dangers of wrongful allegations.

He said: "We don't want to bring in people who are scared to the profession."

However, Alison Whitely, from Kirklees, said it was still important not to "make it easy for guilty colleagues to add insult to injury for victims" where allegations were true.

Despite this, the motion calling for more guidance to cope with "malicious" allegations against staff also passed without opposition.

The conference, which around 400 of the ATL's 160,000 members are attending, lasts until Thursday.




SEE ALSO:
Teachers refuse violent pupils
21 Oct 03  |  Education


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