Abused Devon school staff 'need more support'

School staff abused by students in Devon need better support and even protective equipment, a union has said.

There were more than 3,000 exclusion days at schools in the county in the 2009-10 academic year, according to figures from the GMB union.

It said as well as teachers, mealtime assistants and playground staff needed better training to cope.

The Department for Education said dealing with poor pupil behaviour was a "key priority".

Sharon Holder, from the GMB, said physical assaults were happening "day-in and day-out".

'Appalling violence'

She said: "School support staff are attacked as often as teachers.

"Staff should not fear going into work worrying whether they will get bitten or kicked or verbally abused by pupils.

"Society can't expect teaching assistants and midday supervisors to cope indefinitely with this appalling level of violence and abuse."

She added that in situations where a violent child had to be at school, because the school had accepted the child as a special educational needs student, "then there has to be protective gear provided".

'Lash out'

One Devon primary school teacher, who wanted to be identified only as Jane, said: "Generally, it's just worse than cheekiness.

"They can be shouting at you, telling you that you can't do anything and saying: 'My mum says you can't do this'.

"You do get some children who swear at you and who will lash out.

"It's definitely getting worse... so much so that you have to restrain children sometimes at four years old."

The Department for Education said: "Tackling poor behaviour is a key priority and that is why our reforms are primarily aimed at stopping the problem before it starts.

"However, where a pupil does attack a member of school staff, our guidance makes clear that force can be used when it is reasonable and absolutely necessary."

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