February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

Attacked by pupils: 43% of the workforce being exposed to violence…

Four out of 10 teachers have experienced violence from pupils in the past year, a survey for the ATL teachers union suggests (26 Jan 2016).   Of those who had experienced violence, 77% said they had been pushed, and around half were kicked or had an object thrown at them.   Nine out of 10 staff had dealt with challenging behaviour, such as swearing or shouting, in the past year.   Four out of 10 teachers surveyed had experienced at least one incident in the past year, while nearly all had witnessed violence some time their career.

Examples of Violence:

One special needs worker at a Bedfordshire primary school said she had been stabbed in the head with a pencil, while a teacher at a Suffolk secondary academy said she had been “sprayed in the face with deodorant“.

In a third case, a support worker at a secondary school in Cheshire said a chair had been thrown that hit her leg.

A teaching assistant at a Rochdale primary school claimed: “Staff are regularly verbally abused with very little consequences. Occasionally pupils physically attack members of staff, but this rarely leads to a day’s exclusion.”

“school staff are being left to plug the gaps in social care”

Many schools do excellent work day in, day out to help pupils stay on track and to keep schools a safe place for pupils and staff.   But schools need support from social and health services and parents to deal with the complex issues many pupils face due to chaotic home lives or mental health issues.



  1. Health and Safety officers in academies and at local authorities should take note of the statistics of staff being attacked by pupils.   While uncommon in most schools and settings, there are classrooms, schools and areas where violence risk is more common.  The injury and liability issues could cost many tens of thousands of pounds, not to mention the careers of frontline and management-level staff AND the personal pain of those involved.
  2. Head Teachers need to take action quickly to help and support staff who are being attacked by pupils.   I was at a school recently where the previous Head Teacher has completely poo-poo’d the notion of Positive Handling training for staff because he himself didn’t believe in it, or that it was necessary.   The incidents at the school of restraint and violence were numerous and relatively serious.   Ignoring these issues is playing with fire.
  3. The Social Care issues are huge.  Many schools I visit who have a troubled child in a classroom and people being attacked by pupils will often note to me that the parents of the child are difficult to talk to, can become aggressive and intimidating.  The problems of violence within the school have roots far beyond the school gate and our stretched Social Work departments are not able to keep up.
  4. Reporting and monitoring by the wider authorities appears to be minimal.  Why is it that a Union (such as the ATL) feels the need to survey their members to get these statistics on who is being attacked by pupils?  Is there no other formal body with a government mandate measuring and  of the issues?

We continue to help wherever needed…..positive handling for schools


positive handling training from dynamis

Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant.  He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist in personal safety and violence reduction initiatives and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict.  www.dynamis.training

Gerard’s book on Lone Worker Personal Safety > 


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