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Teachers 'suffer car vandalism'

7 April 09 16:08 GMT
By Alison Smith
BBC News education reporter, at the ATL conference

Teachers have endured hoax phone calls and have had their cars vandalised and their homes daubed with offensive slogans, a teachers' union claims.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for a "zero tolerance" policy towards violent pupils.

They said teachers should be protected from abuse in the same way as National Health Service workers are.

The government said schools had the necessary powers to take firm and swift action against violent pupils.

One teacher had had her windows smashed 17 times, ATL members said in a debate at their annual conference in Liverpool.

Maxine Bradshaw, a teacher from north Wales, said "many teachers who had chosen a caring profession had been shown a distinct lack of care when it came to their own protection".

She said the police offered her "restorative justice" after pupils broke into her car and the chance to meet the offenders so that they could see the consequences of their actions.

But it was a "waste of time" as they offered an "insincere apology", she said.

She said in this school year alone, ATL insurers had received 146 claims for damage to their property and 69 claims for damage to their vehicles.

Teachers speaking at the conference reported cases of colleagues who had been expected to teach pupils who had attacked them or attacked their property.

'Lose our lives'

On Monday, Schools Secretary Ed Balls told the conference: "I don't want teachers to be social workers, housing officers or parents.

"But you are often the first professionals to spot problems, and need others to then do their bit."

Ian Martin, a teacher at City of Bristol college, said teachers were the first to notice "a growing problem".

"This is an unacceptable situation," he said.

"The duty of care is sometimes ignored because the student is a valuable commodity and schools need the money.

"But we don't want to lose our lives."

No excuses

One teacher said she had faced many difficulties after moving from an independent school back into the state sector.

Irene Baker, from Sefton, said schools were "failing children because they created a soft, fluffy environment where they did not have to face up to the consequences of their actions".

"But there are consequences in the real world," she said.

"Every child matters. But every teacher matters too."

Other teachers, however, said that, on occasions, allowances should be made for poor behaviour, but that coming from a deprived background should not be used as an excuse.

"I make no apology for bad behaviour," said Carvel Lonsdale, a teacher from Lancashire.

"But children are better off in school, being educated with the resources we have.

"I know of children who have made positive changes and as a society we are all better off."

Schools minister Jim Knight said that the vast majority of schools were calm places.

"Pupils can and will be excluded for attacking teachers or other pupils," he said.

"It's important that heads send a clear message that violent or abusive behaviour will not be tolerated."

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