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Friday, 2 April, 1999, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Teachers want training in restraint techniques
John Williamson
John Williamson says children are becoming disaffected younger
Staff from a special hospital have been training teachers in how to handle a growing part of the job - being bitten, scratched and kicked by out-of-control children.

Unions 99
Teachers, meeting at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Harrogate, say the problem is being made worse by a government drive towards greater 'inclusivity' - keeping disruptive youngsters in mainstream schooling.

In response, delegates say that the government should improve training for teachers in restraint techniques.

The problems are said to start in nursery school. "Some children are becoming disaffected at a much earlier age," said John Williamson, who teaches in a school for 11 to 16-year-old boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties in Wirral - which is over-subscribed.

"There are more instances of violence being recorded by children of infants school age. It was unusual but now it is not unusual - that small children will react violently," he said.

Staff at Ashworth special hospital on Merseyside, which is home to some of the country's most violent criminals, had been providing Home Office-accredited three-day training courses for teachers in handling disruptive children, he said.

Violence in school
Teachers want to learn how to prevent violence in schools
"There are techniques that you can use to restrain children without hurting yourself or the children," Mr Williamson said.

"There have been examples of throwing furniture, kicking, biting, scratching, and if you don't know how to hold a child that can be particularly dangerous."

The training emphasises calming down the child to defuse the situation, without damaging the child's self-esteem, in the hope of avoiding the need to use physical restraint.

"If these children are to remain in mainstream schools, training is paramount," he said.

Training was available but money was not clearly earmarked for it, so provision was patchy, said Andy Speake, a teacher in a mixed comprehensive in Devon.

Also causing concern at the conference was an apparent contradiction between the move towards greater inclusivity, and the pressure on schools to improve their league table performance.

Maureen McDonald, of Tavistock College, Devon, said that almost half their students were not doing well enough in the eyes of the government, parents and the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

One class she teaches on Wednesday afternoons is a high-performing set, bright and keen to learn.

"An hour later, my classroom is full of the disaffected, the dyslexic, the disruptive, the deprived, the drug dealers and the deadly dangerous," she said.

Previously such pupils might have been given special courses, including work experience outside the college.

"This year, inclusion policies mean that these students may not be able to have those opportunities to achieve, despite the government's promise of more work-based programmes.

"They must become part of our league table statistics. Their achievements count for nothing."

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