The Guardian reports that more than half of school support staff have been attacked at work, according to research that suggests the problem is on the rise. In a survey for the GMB union, to be shared at its 100th annual congress this week, 54% of teaching assistants say they have been physically abused or assaulted.
Staff report being strangled, punched, kicked and having tables and chairs thrown at them. Some admit that they are in fear of violent gangs operating within their schools. Some have had false allegations of abuse levelled against them by pupils.
Karen Leonard, a GMB national officer, said: “No one should have to put up with being attacked while at work – and our members are no different. The results of this survey make truly disturbing reading, with teaching assistants, caretakers, lunchtime supervisors and more experiencing shocking levels of violence. Many are left with terrible mental and physical scars. GMB demands a zero-tolerance approach to violence in schools – with proper, reliable support systems in place for those who do experience it.”
Police have been called to schools about 700 times in the past three years to confiscate weapons from pupils. Figures from 28 local forces show 192 weapons were seized at schools in 2014, 221 in 2015 and 283 last year.
One factor appears to be a rise in children with special needs in the school system. A teaching assistant from the East Midlands told the Observer that she had been off sick for several months since being put in charge of a violent eight-year-old boy with special needs.
She was forced to leave the room after one outburst but was told to return to the boy. “In 10 minutes I was back out of the room,” she said. “I’d been kicked, spat at, punched and had a table thrown at me, so I left and I haven’t been back. I’ve learned that the child now only comes to school in the mornings. More and more children are getting like that; they are running round school and the teaching assistants are having to follow them everywhere.”
“He doesn’t know any better, he’s a child. It’s heartbreaking to see these children like this. They’ve got behavioural, family, home problems. They need somebody qualified to deal with them. It’s just made me sickened. The school is letting the child down and there was no support for me from the head.”
Have you been attacked in the classroom? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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