Teaching assistants bear brunt of classroom violence, union says

Staff are facing a ‘barrage’ of verbal threats and abuse in their job, according to research

Teaching assistants are bearing the brunt of violence in schools, with most suffering or witnessing attacks, according to new union research.

A survey of more than 14,500 members of Unison across the UK showed that most of the violence was from pupils, although some of it involved parents. Just over half of teaching assistants said they had experienced physical violence in the past year, while three out of four had witnessed incidents.

Unison said its study showed that teaching assistants were facing a “barrage” of verbal threats and abuse in their job. The union’s head of education, Jon Richards, said the report painted a “grim picture” of how spending cuts were affecting school support staff.

“Lessons couldn’t go ahead without teaching assistants, and staff should not have to put up with violence and abuse in the classroom,” he said. “These are not just occasional incidents.

‘Abuse is a regular occurrence’

“Abuse is becoming a regular and alarming occurrence with more than half of teaching assistants coming across violent behaviour in the classroom, the playground or at the school gates.

“A lack of resources means schools are unable to address behavioural issues. Dealing with these problems can dominate the day when time could be better spent supporting children’s learning.”

The union has called on school governors and headteachers to do more to manage the behaviour of unruly and disruptive pupils to minimise the impact of violence in the classroom, and to provide full support to staff encountering it.

The Department for Education said education secretary Nicky Morgan had addressed the issue at the annual conference of the NASUWT teaching union over Easter, saying: “I want to be absolutely clear, that no teacher should ever have to work in fear of violence or harassment, either in school, outside of school, or online.”

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