Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 12:07 UK

Jabs bought by bitten teachers

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter, at the Nasuwt conference

Special school
Teachers in special schools complain of being bitten and punched

Teachers working in special schools are so worried about being bitten by pupils that they are buying their own tetanus and hepatitis jabs, say teachers.

The Nasuwt teachers' union conference heard calls for protection against pupil violence in schools for children with special educational needs.

Suzanne Nantcurvis told delegates that some teachers were paying £80 for inoculations.

The government said no teacher should have to do their job in fear of attack.

There are around 14,800 teachers working in special schools.

The union's head, Chris Keates, said it was unacceptable that violence was seen as "part of the job".

The teachers' conference has already heard complaints about poor behaviour in mainstream schools, but there were particular concerns for staff in special schools, serving pupils with emotional, behavioural or physical difficulties.

"Biting is quite a big issue in special schools," said Ms Nantcurvis, who put forward a motion calling for teachers in special schools to be able to work in a safer environment.

"Due to the nature of the assaults they face, often teachers in special schools have to have vaccines such as tetanus and hepatitis B.

"I know that for some colleagues this has come at a personal cost of around £80 for a hepatitis B injection."

There were also teachers who were buying their own armguards to protect them from biting, she said.


Ms Nantcurvis warned that teachers in special schools and in pupil referral units should not accept this as acceptable or inevitable.

"I've sat in the staff room of a special school listening to teachers nonchalantly talking about the number of times they had been assaulted; their daily experiences of being kicked and bitten and their visits to the hospital outpatients department."

The most common forms of assault, she said, were punching, kicking and biting.

Teachers working in such settings also faced particular worries about false allegations, she said.

The risk of facing accusations as a result of managing such violent incidents left staff "worried sick", she told conference.

Ms Nantcurvis gave the example of a teacher who had a pupil in her class whose parents "have made an occupation out of complaints".

The union's general secretary, Chris Keates, said it was unacceptable that "some parents hold the view that if you work in a special school being assaulted, complained about or facing false allegations is part of the job".

A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "No teacher should have to do their job in fear of being attacked.

"Employers, including schools and local authorities, have a legal duty of care for the health, safety and welfare of their staff.

"This includes the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence. We have provided clear guidance to assist with this."

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