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'Quarter of teachers face physical violence once a week'

Four per cent of teachers said they were attacked in their job every day. Credit: PA

Nearly a quarter of teachers said they face physical violence from pupils at least once a week, a shocking new survey has revealed.

In a survey answered by 4,912 teachers, the results found 89 per cent had been physically or verbally abused over the last year.

Around 24 per cent said pupils were physically attacking them at least once a week, and four per cent said they are attacked daily.

The poll by teaching union the NASUWT, ahead of its annual conference in Belfast, also found 86 per cent of teachers have been sworn at, while 42 per cent have been verbally threatened.

Nearly three in 10 (29 per cent) have been hit, punched or kicked, while 39 per cent have been shoved or barged.

Other attacks involved being spat at (seven per cent), headbutted (three per cent), and having personal property damanged (27 per cent).

One teacher said: “I feel unsafe in my place of work, and I feel like I have had all of my powers to deal with unruly behaviour stripped away from me.”

Another, who has since left the profession, said: “Having taught for almost 40 years I have witnessed a demonstrable and seemingly unstoppable deterioration in pupil behaviour.

“Moreover, teachers are, it seems, now expected to tolerate verbal abuse and threats as par for the course and, quite literally, an occupational hazard.”

Four in five of the respondents (81%) said abuse from pupils had affected their morale and enthusiasm for their job.

Three-quarters felt they did not have the resources or support to meet the behavioural needs of all the pupils they teach.

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One said: “My school has become a frightening place over the last few years and I often try to only go on the corridors at times when I expect them to be quiet, as I simply assume I will be stampeded, pushed or sworn at.”

The majority (52%) of teachers report their school making them feel poor pupil behaviour is their fault, while 49% say the culture in their school is that verbal and physical abuse is part of the job and teachers should expect this behaviour.

One teacher said: “I work in a non-PRU (pupil referral unit) small school designed to prevent permanent exclusions.

“When I have been pushed, shoved or barged, little has happened.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, called for action to protect teachers. Credit: PA

“On one occasion I was punched several times and knocked over, striking my head on a radiator and spraining my thumb as well as a number of other bruises.”

Over half the teachers (57%) reported all the incidents of abuse to managers, with 41% reporting some or most of the incidents.

Only 15% felt pupils were dealt with appropriately when incidents were reported, and 6% said no action was taken by the school to tackle the perpetrators.

Another teacher added“I’m a former rugby player and have been more protected against physical violence and verbal intimidation on the pitch than I feel at work.”

Another said: “I was discouraged from reporting violence against me – this could ‘harm my career’.”

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Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “No teacher should ever have to go to work with the expectation of being verbally or physically abused, but it is clear from this survey that for too many teachers this is the day-to-day reality.

“Pupil indiscipline is now second only to workload in teachers’ concern about their job and is a contributory factor to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

“It is simply unacceptable that employers are failing in their legal duty of care to provide a safe working environment.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Teachers and school staff have a right to be safe while doing their jobs and any form of misconduct, particularly violence towards them, is completely unacceptable.

“The majority of schools provide a safe environment for pupils and teaching staff, and it’s important that they remain as such.

“We are committed to tackling bad behaviour in schools have made great strides in empowering teachers to tackle this issue and have recently announced a £10 million investment to support schools to share best practice in behaviour management.”