As far as I am concerned all the teaching unions ought to be ashamed of the fact that they have never once called a strike in response to the death of a teacher in the classroom, never mind classroom assaults.
The union leadership are personally entitled to feel concern for pupils, even more than teachers, but it is utterly unprofessional to let this view affect the working conditions of teachers. Teachers need to learn to put their foot down with union leaders who go off on one regularly too. It’s a union, not a petty fiefdom.
The NUT bangs on about the baseline assessment but is not outraged by the assaults that lead to teachers leaving the profession. Bousted can hang her head in shame as well. She downplayed her own union’s survey results . 40% of those surveyed have been attacked and yet, the strongest thing she could bring herself to say on the matter was:
“It is shocking that more than four in 10 (43%) education professionals have had to deal with physical violence from a pupil in the last year,”
Except it’s not shocking at all. We know that the number of assaults has grown steadily. What is the tipping point here? 50%, 60%, 90%? When do the unions call a strike over it? They won’t, is the answer. They have not gone on strike over teachers being killed by pupils so why would they bother with a minor thing like assault? The only positive thing I can say about the unions in this respect is that they have yet to imply teachers are ‘causing’ the physical and verbal acts, but it’s hardly a compliment.
We have the same right to feel safe in our classrooms as any worker in their place of work – end of story. I think all physical and verbal attacks on teachers should have to be reported to an independent body, much the same way that physical handling of children needs to be written up and reported. This, and the actions taken in response, will be on record, as will staff absence, resignations and turnover rate in teachers which teach particular children. (Damn near all the turnover in one school was the result of 6 children, and the only thing that was evident was that each of those leaving had indeed taken the message that it was their fault seriously and to heart, the children’s behaviour didn’t improve a jot).
The fines for not doing so would be heavy, involve a no-notice inspection of the school (no point in trying to hide it all like one does for Ofsted as they would be looking out for that in the first place), and could result in dismissal for the member of SLT who is in charge for false reporting. Even better make it a computerised system that teachers and SLT log onto separately. If SLT start moving against a teacher who has written up an assault, the independent body will be allowed to oversee processes so that teachers can’t be penalised for reporting what has happened. The governors would also be expected to get reports of this and the actions taken. They would be able to communicate with the board independently if they have concerns.
As for the children and parents, if there isn’t multi-agency involvement already then this should be triggered. A police officer should be involved in speaking to both parent and child. Which they are entitled to do. The fact is that the police can speak to any child (and detain if necessary) who is committing a criminal offence, regardless of age. Without a plan in place, agreed to by the parents and child, including that they have understood that any further assault will lead to expulsion, the child should not go back into the classroom.
What about children with disabilities, SEN such as autism, etc.? For a start I don’t associate SEN with physical or verbal assault because quite simply none of the children who would fit that category have had those issues. I don’t accept it is a ‘normal’ part of teaching those children. In the case of PRU’s, they may wish to give the children more chances but then they would need to justify why.
The fact is that teachers, like all other workers have the right to be safe and free from abuse/assault. We have trained to be teachers, not punching bags. If the unions can’t or won’t protect us then we need something else, that much is clear.
This post was originally published on the Labour Teachers website.