Plastic globe, chairs and a potato thrown at school teachers as union warns staff 'suffer in silence'

A plastic globe, furniture and a potato are among the objects to have been thrown at teachers by pupils in recent years.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 4:55 pm
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 9:15 am

Results from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to local secondary schools uncovered dozens of attacks on staff in the Wakefield district since 2014.

Instances of students spitting at staff were also among the findings.

Teachers union NASUWT said that some in the profession were "suffering in silence" over abuse, while the former head of a Pontefract secondary said the issue had become "significantly" worse in recent years.

Teachers' physical and mental health is suffering as a result of attacks from students, the NASUWT union says.

At one academy in the district, a globe, a small whiteboard and an egg were pelted at teachers in separate incidents between 2016 and 2019.

All of them resulted in minor injuries to the victims.

At another, in the Five Towns area, a teacher was hurt when a pupil trapped their hand in a filing cabinet during the 2017/18 academic year.

At the same school, one staff member was spat at, while a chair and a potato were thrown at teachers in separate incidents.

"We don't come to work to be abused". Staff are "suffering in silence", according to the union.

Chris Keates, the acting general secretary of NASUWT, said: "Pupil indiscipline is now one of the main reasons given by teachers for considering leaving the profession, making it a key contributory factor to the national crisis in teacher supply.

"For too long, too many teachers have suffered in silence.

"NASUWT has gathered evidence on the extent of the verbal and physical abuse being faced by teachers, some of whom report abuse occurring on a daily basis.

"Their physical and mental health is being affected by the failure of too many employers to support them in tackling these issues."

Chris Keates, the acting general secretary of NASUWT.

Figures also showed attacks on teachers are not confined to secondary schools.

Wakefield Council said that 144 incidents had occurred in the primaries they run between September 2017 and October 2019.

Ms Keates added: "It is common for people to assume that behaviour problems are confined to secondary schools but in fact that has never been the case.

"Primary school teachers also face equally challenging and serious pupil indiscipline, but they are often discouraged from raising the issues and led to believe it will reflect negatively on them because of the age of pupils."

Councillor David Jones, a former head at Carleton High School in Pontefract, said he'd come across one assault against a teacher during his 36 year career in the profession, which ended in 2013.

But Coun Jones, who is now the chair of the Wakefield children and young people scrutiny committee, added: "The situation has deteriorated significantly over these last six years.

"Anybody who chooses to become a teacher does so because they want to improve the lives of young people.

"They go to work in the morning with a desire and a determination to make life better for those young people, but increasingly they are vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse."

Coun Jones said the issue could be partly attributed to recent reforms in education, which he said had "increased pressure on schools, teachers and pupils".

Cuts to pastoral and support services for pupils were also contributing factors, he said.

Around a third of the schools asked for details under the FOI Act did not respond.

Local Democracy Reporting Service