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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 15:04 GMT
Attacks on teachers 'every day'
Teacher
Attacks that cause injury have to be reported to safety officials
A teacher suffers a violent attack almost every school day in England, official government figures suggest.

There were 221 attacks on teachers last year alone, and 1,128 between 2000 and 2006, information revealed by the Liberal Democrats shows.

The figures show the number of injuries caused by violent attacks increased by a fifth over the same period.

Lib Dem education spokeswoman Sarah Teather, who obtained the figures, said such attacks led to fear in schools.

She said: "These chilling figures reveal the shocking levels of violence in schools.
Some teachers are in tears every day
A London teacher

"Every few years a particularly tragic case makes the news, but the hidden story is that a teacher in England falls victim to a serious assault every single working day.

"As with patients who attack staff in A&E, pupils and parents have to be made to understand that the law applies inside the school gates just the same as outside.

"Violent attacks against teachers are completely unacceptable and must be prosecuted.

Time off work

She said the impact of such incidents spreads much further than just the victim's suffering.

"It damages the atmosphere of the entire school and creates a culture of fear," she said.

Ms Teather obtained the information after tabling a question to junior minister in the Department of Work and Pensions Anne McGuire.

Violent attacks against teachers are completely unacceptable and must be prosecuted
Sarah Teather

She asked how many serious injuries caused to school teachers by physical attacks had been reported to the Health and Safety Executive yearly between1999-2000 and 2005-6.

The number of injuries resulting in the victim needing three or more days work rose by 29%.

'Strong action'

Most attacks were reported in Preston, Rotherham and South Derbyshire where five injuries to teachers were logged last year.

Bradford, Ealing and Purbeck local authorities followed closely with four.

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said any attack was "completely unacceptable", but that they were relatively rare.

"It's particularly galling when the attacks are being carried out by parents because they are the ones who should be helping with discipline and good behaviour among children," she added.

Sentencing guidelines now make it a more serious offence to assault those working in the public sector, such as school staff
DFES

General Secretary of the NASUWT Chris Keates said her union had been raising the issue of violence against teachers for many years.

"We need to take strong action where there's serious violence against teachers."

But she warned there was a need to keep the issue in perspective as most teachers said the biggest challenge they faced was low level disruption in class.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said violence against members of school staff would not be tolerated.

"We fully back schools taking tough action to remove or prosecute anyone - whether parent or pupil - who is behaving in an aggressive way," she said.

"Sentencing guidelines now make it a more serious offence to assault those working in the public sector, such as school staff."

Chief executive of Teacher Support Network Patrick Nash said violent attacks can have a devastating impact.

"Many of the teachers experiencing violence told us that they have suffered severe stress, anxiety and a fear of going to school.

"In some extreme cases, this has led to long-term sickness absence and even ill-health retirement."

  • The Teacher Support Network is conducting a survey on violence against teachers this month.

Have you been affected by issues covered in this story?


Your comments

I will never teach in a state school again
Adam, UK

I'm still getting treatment for injuries received 5 years ago when I was attacked by 2 pupils known to me at the school I then worked in. As it was about 200 feet outside the school grounds the school, board and LEA declined to take my side or support me. It's time people accepted that some children are beyond any help from schools and teachers, we should not be doing the work of social workers and psychiatrists. The fact is some, a minority, of children are too damaged or poorly socialised to cope in a school environment. We should not be the ones to pick up the pieces, take the blame for parental failure and risk our health for the errors of others. I will never teach in a state school again, it's too dangerous and I know I will not be supported by the school, the board or the LEA.
Adam, UK

A cousin trained to be a teacher and was accepted to be a teacher in Nigeria. She enjoyed it so much as the children were keen and eager to learn. Upon her return, after two years, she took up a teaching position at a comprehensive school. After less than two terms she resigned as she had no desire to try to teach pupils who were insulting and disruptive with no desire to learn. With no effective disciplinary sanctions to support her she felt she was wasting her time. I agree with her action but I would also call for less bureaucratic measures in dealing with such pupils.
Jim, UK

My partner works as a teacher and has had her wallet stolen, has been threatened, has had chairs thrown at her and drugs dealt in her classroom. What I can't understand is that these cases which ordinarily in normal society would be a police matter, particularly violent assault, internally there is an enormous push for them to be dealt with as 'internal matters'. Don't people want to know what is going on in their schools or are they happier pretending these things don't really go on?
John Staveley, UK

I am an American, but I taught in a rather rough primary school in the southeast for three years. My wife and I now teach in a Brazilian private school now.

Although we are both fully qualified, we have no plans to return to education in Britain due to the lack of respect for educators and mountains of government schemes and paperwork.

The abuse is due mainly to the misguided policy of stripping teachers and schools of any power to discipline and giving the pupil and parents the power to call the shots instead. All school discipline these days is pretty much a paper tiger.
Bill Cleveland, Brazil

Teachers are not given training to deal with these pupils
Kevina, UK
Problems of violence also occur due to a lack of training of staff. SEN students are expected to learn in mainstream. However teachers are not given training to deal with these pupils who often have behaviour difficulties. In our case inappropriate physical handling of our son by a teacher caused our SEN son to lash back. I agree teachers should not have to tolerate violent behaviour from pupils. However, I also strongly believe the actions of staff need to be looked at closer as some children (both SEN and NT students) are also victims of violence and abuse from staff who not trained adequately to deal with behaviour difficulties of students expected to attend mainstream.
Kevina, UK

My daughter, a teacher in the state sector, has been subjected to several dreadful verbal assaults of an obscene nature in the past few months without any serious action being taken against those responsible. My wife gave up teaching in the state sector for the private sector and has noted the marked difference in standards between the two.

The teaching unions should back their members in taking out some test cases in court to publicise the daily assaults, and shame the educational establishment into providing real backing for teachers.
Don, England

As I am a PCV driver I have the pleasure delivering and collecting school pupils, I find these young children to behave like animals, they create trouble as soon as they come out the school gates, and the onus is on the bus driver. We have just had the first very light snow fall in the midlands for the start of 2007 and immediately what they do is throw ice balls at the school bus as it leaves the stop BUT LAST WEEK a snowball was armed with grit and stones which hit one of my colleagues in the eye and almost blinded him, the last I heard was his eye sight was just returning but he is very bloodshot and due to this assault he is still off work sick.
Trevor, UK



SEE ALSO
'My school is like a war-zone'
01 Feb 07 |  Education
Advisers to tackle unruly pupils
20 May 05 |  Education
Large rise in attacks on teachers
31 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Bad parents 'should be punished'
29 Jul 05 |  Education
Setting the school respect agenda
22 Jul 05 |  Education

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