Attacks on teachers in Wales on the rise

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Teacher at blackboard (generic)
Image caption,
A recent teacher survey suggested pupil behaviour had got worse

Attacks on teachers in schools in Wales hit a five-year high last year, according to figures obtained by BBC Wales.

Between 2005 and 2010, nearly 4,000 staff were subjected to abuse, with some suffering broken bones.

The worst cases saw staff butted and hit with weapons such as door-stoppers, pool cues and chairs.

New assembly government powers on school discipline come into force this month.

A recent survey suggested 70% of UK teachers had considered quitting due to poor pupil behaviour.

The 2010 Behaviour Survey conducted by Teacher Support Network, Parentline Plus and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) found that 92% of respondents said pupil behaviour had got worse over the course of their career.

Iwan Guy, acting director of headteachers union NAHT Cymru, said more protection for teachers was needed.

He said: "The most difficult part for teachers if they have been assaulted by a pupil who is then suspended, is that they return to school and often the teachers have to face them again in class.

"Teachers are experiencing more violence and even things like being filmed on mobile phones while they are teaching.

"It is a societal problem but what's the answer?

"I think teachers need more protection than they currently receive."

The number of attacks on teachers and other school staff such as dinner ladies and teaching assistants rose from between 807 and 823 in 2008-09 to between 909 and 933 in 2009-2010.

The figures are not exact as Torfaen council provided figures in groups of five to protect the identity of individual pupils.

Pupils in special schools and units were responsible for the majority of attacks, the figures suggested.

All local authorities in Wales were asked via a freedom of information request to reveal details about recorded assaults between the 2005-2006 school year and 2009-2010.

Of the councils asked, 17 were able to provide the requested data. Anglesey and Blaenau Gwent did not hold the required figures, Carmarthenshire said the information required exceeded the necessary limit for such requests and Rhondda Cynon Taf did not reply.

The authority which recorded the most attacks was Newport while Gwynedd had the fewest.

Not all authorities broke down the assaults into categories, but those that did revealed some incidents including these:

  • A teacher hit with pool balls, a pool cue and sworn at
  • A primary school pupil attacked a teacher with a door-stop, and punched and spat at them
  • Another primary pupil butted a teacher, leaving them with a split lip
  • One teacher attacked with a sharp object. another suffered sexual harassment and four gang-related violence
  • One member of staff hit with a door and another's car damaged
  • A head teacher attacked with a rake
  • One teacher suffered a broken wrist in an assault
  • A teaching assistant fractured a rib when kicked and pushed into a table
  • A pupil with behavioural difficulties caused a teacher to break an arm during an attempt to run away from school

Julian Stanley, chief executive of Teacher Support Network, said that poor behaviour was at the heart of many teachers' health and wellbeing issues.

The recent survey commissioned by the network showed 81% of respondents had experienced stress, anxiety or depression as a result of bad behaviour, while 79% of teachers said that they felt unable to teach as effectively due to poor behaviour.

He said: "We are not saying that behaviour is an issue in every classroom, in every school, but we are concerned that poor behaviour is leading some great teachers to leave the profession.

New powers

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "Parents and teachers need to work together to create safe, respectful school communities, where teachers, and by extension their children, can reach their full potential."

"On Monday the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, signed an order meaning the powers contained in the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 will come into effect in Wales on 31 October, 2010.

"This will mean new powers and duties for school discipline, parental responsibility and exclusion.

"It includes revised guidance on the use of force to control or restrain pupils and guidance relating to the new power for schools to be able to search pupils for weapons without their consent.

"This shows how determined we are to stamp out violence from our schools."

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