CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Guardian
More than half of school support staff have been attacked at work, according to research that suggests the problem is on the rise, the Guardian reports.
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.
Almost one in five – 18% – of the assistants polled say they are attacked at least once a week. One in ten are abused once a month, while nine per cent say it happens once a term, and 17% within the past year. Almost a quarter also say they are verbally abused at least once a week.
Nearly a third – 29% of staff – have been injured at school and more than one in five – 21% – say it has negatively affected their working life.
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.
“I was extremely shocked and frightened and feel emotionally exhausted,” says one respondent, who had been attacked by a child and asked not to be named. “I am very worried this child will attempt to attack me again. I have said I don’t want the child anywhere near me.”
Another blames their school’s culture. “Heads and senior management should show that they are backing their staff by setting appropriate measures when a pupil shows signs of violence,” the assistant says. “Will it take a death before schools take notice? Maybe this is a factor why so many teachers leave the profession.”
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.”
A survey for the ATL teachers’ union last year found that four out of 10 teachers had experienced violence from pupils in the past 12 months. Of those, about half were kicked or had an object thrown at them.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that across Britain there was a 50% rise in classroom incidents recorded by the police between 2014 and 2016.
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.”
The assistant, who has been sent for scans and is having steroid injections to treat injuries she received during three months of attacks from the child, said she did not blame the pupil.
“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.”