Behaviour: Senior staff ‘disregard’ pupil assaults on teachers, union members say

Teachers say they have been bitten and threatened with knives, and almost half think their school has a behaviour problem, NASUWT finds

Some school managers have “disregarded” teachers and refused to take them seriously when they have been physically assaulted by pupils, members of a teaching union have claimed.

The warnings came as a survey of 5,000 teachers by the union – published today – found nearly half of teachers believed their school had problems with behaviour. More than one in 10 said they had been physically assaulted by a pupil.

Well over half said they did not feel supported by senior management to deal with poor behaviour.

Katie Anderson, a teacher from Essex, told the conference: “I think this issue of violence against teachers is actually a taboo in our occupation. We don’t talk about it.”

She said: “I’d like to tell you about the head of maths, where a child had slammed a door into him twice and [the school leadership team] said, there’s no evidence. They didn’t take the member of staff’s word. They were disempowered and disregarded.”

Ms Anderson said another teacher had been bitten on the breast whilst splitting up a fight between pupils, and had been told by her managers: “You had to break up the assault, what did you expect was going to happen?”

She said teaching was seen as a “vocation instead of an occupation” but that this “set the wrong tone”.

“It’s almost like domestic abuse, when you love your husband but he’s knocking you about, so you stay with him,” she said.

“We love our kids and they’re knocking us about so we stay with them because we’re expected to, but that’s not really on.”

Lyall Johnson, a teacher also from Essex, said that in her second year of teaching a male pupil had dropped his trousers and made sexual gestures.

“He was suspended for five days,” she said. “Nobody spoke to me. Nobody asked how I felt. That happened on a Friday and they expected me to go back into that class on Tuesday and teach.”

David Whitworth, a member of the NASUWT’s national executive, said: “In my school a student confronted me with a knife.

“Whilst that was a bit shocking, what was more of a problem is the constant use of foul language, angry foul language directed at staff.”

School leaders “simply don’t know what to do” about this, he said.

The NASUWT survey found that twelve per cent of teachers had been assaulted at work and 54 per cent had received verbal abuse from pupils.

Fifty eight per cent said they did not feel supported by senior management to deal with poor behaviour and 47 per cent said their school had a behaviour problem.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “No person should ever have to go to work with the expectation of being assaulted and abused and yet this is the reality for too many teachers.

“Yet too many schools remain resistant to promoting zero tolerance of assaults on staff. Too many schools are more concerned about upsetting parents and pupils than protecting their staff. This sends entirely the wrong message to pupils.”

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