Staff poll reveals shocking toll of violence in the classroom

Vincent Uzomah, who was stabbed at a Bradford school last year. Photo: Ian Hinchliffe /
Vincent Uzomah, who was stabbed at a Bradford school last year. Photo: Ian Hinchliffe /
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TEACHERS ARE facing physical violence in the classroom, with pupils kicking, punching, spitting and even using weapons in school, according to a survey.

It suggests that more than two-fifths of education workers have had to deal with violent pupils in the last year – while others have faced insults, threats, bullying and harassment.

Many school staff blame a lack of boundaries at home for poor conduct in lessons, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) poll found, while others suggested that a growing lack of respect in society for people in professional jobs was partly responsible.

The issue of teacher safety has had a high profile in Yorkshire over the past two years following two shocking attacks in schools in Leeds and Bradford.

Ann Maguire was fatally stabbed by pupil Will Cornick at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds in April 2014.

And last year Vincent Uzomah, from Leeds, was stabbed at Dixons Kings Academy, in Bradford by a 14-year-old pupil.

Teaching unions at the time stressed, however, that these were one-off incidents.

A report published today shows the findings of a poll of more than 1,000 teachers who were questioned last year.

It found that nearly half (45.5 per cent) think that pupils’ behaviour has worsened in the past two years. Of those who said they had faced physical violence, more than three-quarters (76.5 per cent) said they had experienced pushing and shoving, 37.4 per cent had dealt with punching, 52.4 per cent had faced kicking, 24.1 per cent had dealt with spitting and 2.2 per cent said that pupils had used a weapon, such as a knife.

Around 89.1 per cent of teachers and 90.1 per cent of support workers said they had to deal with challenging or disruptive behaviour from pupils in the last year. The most common type was verbal abuse – such as insults, threats, swearing, shouting, 
making accusations and being rude.

Just over half (52.3 per cent) said they had dealt with bullying – such as pupils isolating a classmate from a friendship group or spreading rumours, while a further 24.2 per cent reported dealing with cyber-bullying and 15.1 per cent had seen homophobic or transphobic bullying. Nearly one in four (24.3 per cent) had seen sexual or racial harassment by pupils.

The responses include one teacher from an academy in Yorkshire who said that they had stones thrown at their house.

One special needs worker at a Bedfordshire primary school said she had been stabbed in the head with a pencil, while a teacher at a Suffolk secondary academy reported being “sprayed in the face with deodorant”. In a third case, a support worker at a secondary school in Cheshire said a 
chair had been thrown that hit her leg.

Given a list of reasons for bad behaviour, 84.5 per cent of those polled agreed that lack of boundaries at home were to blame. Many suggested that emotional or behavioural problems were responsible and nearly two-thirds thought that society becoming less respectful to people on front-line jobs.

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 10 education professionals have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil in the last year.”