Education International
Education International

UK: fighting student violence in schools

published 12 August 2015 updated 13 August 2015

Unions respond to data released by the Department for Education that shows the alarming rise of assaults on teachers by pupils, a problem that underlines the need to address student violence within education institutions.

NASUWT: deeper analysis of increasing levels of violence in schools needed

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), affiliated to Education International (EI), described on 30 July the increase in the number of pupils suspended due to assaulting adults in schools as being “extremely worrying.”

These figures, she said, underline the findings of a recent NASUWT survey in which 16 percent of teachers said they had been physically assaulted in the last 12 months by a pupil, an increase of 7 percent on the same survey in 2014.

While the increase in suspensions shows that, quite rightly, schools are not accepting violence against staff, a deeper analysis of why levels of violence are increasing is needed, she underlined.

Keates also said she was concerned that teachers and other staff are facing the trauma of serious disruption and violence, adding that “children and young people are losing their place in mainstream schools and are being placed in a system where specialist staff and provision to meet their needs has been removed or reduced as a result of government cuts”.

ATL: permanent exclusions due to violence must be prevented, and require governmental will

Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), another EI member organisation, also stressed that permanent exclusions are “a tragedy for those children and their families” and a way to prevent so many from facing exclusion from school must be found.

Disruptive behaviour, physical violence and verbal abuse should not be tolerated in schools, as it has a negative impact on the learning of children and puts huge pressure on teachers, she highlighted.  It is therefore essential we identify the causes of "persistent disruptive behaviour” and find ways to support those children and young people, Bousted went on to say.

She also noted that the Government must ensure that schools have the funding and resources required so that children and young people can make the most of their education, and that supporting children at risk of exclusion requires a huge amount of flexibility, expertise and patience, but many of these services have unfortunately been reduced or cut in recent years.

She said that “ultimately this data raises a lot of difficult questions” for the Government, school leaders, teachers, local authorities and parents, and requires from them to “work together to find a way to make our education system work for all our children and young people”.