'Crisis unfolding' in Welsh schools over levels of violence and abuse at teachers

In the last 12 months, 95% of teachers in Wales reported having experienced verbal abuse. Credit: PA Images

Teachers in Wales who are experiencing high levels of violence and verbal abuse at work "feel abandoned", according to teachers' union NASUWT.

The union called on the Welsh Government to do more to protect teachers and pupils from violent and abusive pupil behaviour.

It comes after the NASUWT’s Behaviour in Schools survey, carried out in September 2023, revealed the depth of the problem in Wales. In the last 12 months:

  • 38% of teachers in Wales reported experiencing violence or physical abuse in the classroom

  • 95% said they experienced verbal abuse in the classroom

  • 91% claimed they were sworn at by pupils

Teachers' allegations include being shoved or barged, hit or punched, kicked, spat at, and head-butted, while others reported having chairs thrown at them.

A union official claims teachers are "operating in a hostile environment where they cannot teach and pupils cannot learn", saying many are leaving the profession.

The Welsh Government says there is a duty on local authorities and schools to ensure schools are a safe environment for all.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: "We do not accept a situation in which teachers in Wales feel abandoned by their employers or by the Welsh Government and left alone to deal with serious episodes of pupil indiscipline and violence.

"Teachers did not sign up to become punch bags or referees in physical altercations between pupils. They have a right to feel and to be safe at work.

"Tackling these issues requires openness, transparency and honesty about the scale of the behaviour crisis.

"An all-Wales behaviour summit would, in our view, help to highlight the issues and develop a programme of solutions that will deliver the changes needed."

Neil Butler, NASUWT national official for Wales, said: "Many have chosen to leave the profession and we cannot recruit to replace them.

"The Welsh Government must open its eyes to the crisis unfolding in our schools.

"As a matter of urgency, we need funding for alternative provision and increased classroom support.

"Teachers should be empowered to deal with challenging behaviour through decreased class sizes and balanced workloads.

"Local councils and senior leaders are acting as if abusive pupil behaviour is not their problem. If we are to tackle these issues, we must do it together – teachers cannot be expected to cope alone."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Any form of violence or abuse against staff in our schools is completely unacceptable.

"We want our schools to be safe and welcoming environments where teachers can get on with their jobs, ensuring that every child and young person is supported to reach their potential.

"There is a duty on local authorities and schools to ensure schools are a safe environment for all."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...