“I had a pencil stabbed in my head” – pupil-teacher violence alarms union
Of those who have experienced physical violence from a pupil, 77% have been pushed or shoved; 52% have been kicked; 50% have had an object such as furniture thrown at them, and 37% have been punched. A member of Special Educational Needs staff at a primary school in Bedfordshire said they had “a pencil stabbed in my head.”
Eighty-nine per cent of teachers have dealt with challenging or disruptive pupils in the last year. Support staff also have to deal with challenging or disruptive behaviour, with 90% stating they had dealt with it in the last year.
During their career, 94% of education staff say the challenging or disruptive behaviour targeted at both staff and pupils was verbal, such as insults, threats, derogatory comments, swearing, shouting, making accusations or being rude. Sixty-eight per cent have had to deal with physical aggression such as pushing, spitting, scratching, kicking, punching, hitting, stabbing, having furniture/equipment thrown. Fifty-two per cent said they have dealt with bullying, 40% said pupils were breaking or ruining the belongings of another person, and 24% have dealt with cyber bullying on social media.
Half (50.8%) of staff said dealing with pupils’ challenging or disruptive behaviour has caused them stress and 41% said it has caused them anxiety. Ten per cent have had to visit the doctor as a result.
With ever-more concern over the retention of teachers, worryingly, over a third (35%) said poor pupil behaviour has led them to consider a change of profession and over a quarter (26%) had considered a change of school.
Almost half (45%) stated they believe the behaviour of pupils’ has got worse in the past two years.
Eight-five per cent cited a lack of boundaries at home as the main reason pupils are displaying challenging, disruptive or violent behaviour. Seventy-eight per cent believe emotional and behavioural problems are the causes, and half (49.8%) said poor behaviour is a result of pupils having mental health issues.
Over a third (36%) said relentless testing and pressure for high exams results has a negative effect on pupils’ challenging, disruptive or violent behaviour. Furthermore, 62% believe pupils are under more pressure and stress now than two years ago.
Respondents reported that dealing with pupils’ challenging or disruptive behaviour has a huge impact of the rest of the class with 83% stating it disrupts the work of other pupils.
ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Although the majority of pupils are well-behaved and a pleasure to teach, having to deal with challenging or disruptive behaviour is unfortunately par for the course for education staff.
“It is shocking that more than four-in-ten (43%) education professionals have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil in the last year. No member of staff should be subjected to aggressive behaviour, in any form, while doing their job.
“A lack of funds for social services and child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) means pupils are at risk and, all too often, school staff are being left to plug the gaps in social care as best they can.
“Many schools do excellent work day in, day out, to help pupils stay on track and to keep schools a safe place for pupils and staff. But schools need support from social and health services and parents to deal with the complex issues many pupils face due to chaotic home lives or mental health issues.
“Schools need firm and consistent discipline policies in place and support from parents to ensure they support pupils the best they can.”
Members anonymously reported they had experienced a range of aggression from pupils, such as:
A supply teacher from Warwickshire said: “A pupil, who was destructive when upset and turned over tables and chairs and shouted at other children, showed signs of similar behaviour. To ensure their safety, I asked all the children to move away and he shouted out, kicked his chair over and stomped out of the room. By calmly talking to the pupil outside the classroom the situation was defused.”
A teacher in a secondary academy from Suffolk said they had been “sprayed in the face with deodorant.”
A teacher in an academy in Yorkshire said a pupil had “thrown stones at my house.”
A secondary teacher at an academy in Lancashire said they had been “tripped in the corridor.”
A support staff member at a secondary school in Cheshire said they had a “chair thrown that hit my leg.”
A member of support staff in a secondary academy in Staffordshire said: “I was injured as a result of silly behaviour by a student and I suffered a dislocated finger.”
A teaching assistant in a secondary academy in Cheshire said they were concerned about: “The constant verbal abuse that all teaching and non-teaching staff receive on a daily basis.”
A teaching assistant in a primary school in Rochdale said: “Staff are regularly verbally abused with very little consequences. Occasionally pupils physically attack members of staff but this rarely leads to a day’s exclusion.”
A teaching assistant from a secondary academy in Essex said: “A student who attacked another student was internally excluded and the student who pushed me received no punishment.”