Attacks on teachers and classmates on the rise

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Hundreds of exclusions have been used to punish unruly Wigan children for attacking teachers and fellow pupils.

And figures released under Freedom of Information rules show that both verbal and physical assaults by pupils on teachers and their classmates are on the rise.

Teaching staff are verbally abused and physically threatened on a daily basis, and this is of course unacceptable

Max Atkins

The statistics, recorded by Wigan Council, show that 165 fixed-term exclusions (in other words suspensions) were used in the 2014/15 school year to punish pupils for physically attacking a teacher, while 481 exclusions were issued for verbal abuse against members of staff. This is compared to the 118 fixed-term exclusions handed out for physical attacks on teachers in 2013/14 and 395 for verbal.

A total of 292 exclusions were issued in 2014/15 for physical attacks on other pupils, up from 233 in 2013/14. Meanwhile, 74 exclusions were given to pupils in 2014/15 for verbal attacks on other pupils, up from 51 in 2013/14.

The figures cover all schools in the borough including primary, secondary, special and pupil referral units or alternative provision. The National Union of Teachers has said that some of the increases in the figures may be due to changes in the way incidents have been recorded but admitted that assaults had become “one of the hazards of the job”.

Max Atkins, Divisional Secretary at Wigan NUT, said changes were made to the way incidents were recorded last year and that some physical attacks that resulted in minor injuries such as bruises or scratches, may not have been recorded as such before these were introduced.

He also said that most incidents occurred in special schools or involve pupils with complex needs and challenging behaviour.

He said: “Teaching staff are verbally abused and physically threatened on a daily basis, and this is of course unacceptable.

“However, I have rarely had any casework directly linked to physical or verbal assaults because it has, unfortunately, become one of the hazards of the job that teachers have come to accept.

“All they can do is follow the school’s behaviour policy which, for the most serious cases, results in fixed-term exclusions.”

Of the incidents recorded, only some were reported to health and safety. A total of 129 physical attacks on teachers were reported while two

incidents were reported because the teacher required medical treatment.

Sonia Halliwell, assistant director for human resources at Wigan Council, said: “The safety and wellbeing of all of our staff in schools is paramount and they are encouraged to report all incidents no matter how minor to ensure we pro-actively manage risk and mitigate serious incidents. Where identified, employees are provided with specialist training to help deal with challenging behaviours and this has had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our staff.”

A recent survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that four in 10 teachers have experienced violence from pupils in the past year

The survey found that of those who had experienced violence, 77 per cent said they had been pushed, and around half were kicked or had an object thrown at them and 37 per cent had been punched.

A massive 89 per cent of teachers had dealt with challenging behaviour, such as swearing or shouting, in the past year, as did 90 per cent of support staff.