General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Teachers hit by shock rise in number of school attacks


28/02/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Belfast Telegraph

Attacks on school teachers in Northern Ireland have soared in six years, a trade union has claimed.

According to figures released by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (Into) the number of attacks on secondary level education staff rose from five in 2001/02 to 85 during 2006/07.

The statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also showed a 20-fold increase in the number of physical assaults on primary school teachers - from one in 2001/02 to 20, six years later.

The findings come after the Belfast Telegraph reported yesterday how head teacher Seamus Barnes of St Gabriel's College in north Belfast had been knocked unconscious when he was punched in the face by a relative of a pupil.

In all schools - nursery, primary, post-primary and special schools - the total number of assaults on teachers has risen year-on-year from 63 in 2001/02 to 173 during 2006/07.

The figure dropped to 48 in 2002/03 but rose again to 112 a year later. In 2004/05 there were 132 assaults and 155 in 2005/06. The highest number took place 2006/07 when there were 173.

Brian Carlin, an Into spokesman, described the dramatic increase as " alarming".

He said the union believed the figures only represented a small proportion of assaults.

"These are only the reported incidents. Not all assaults are reported.

"Into is concerned at the lack of advice and assistance, particularly to principals and senior management within schools, on what and how to record and report violent incidents involving teachers."

The union has recommended that a zero tolerance approach be adopted and that priority be given to the development of a policy and guidance.

Despite the high number of assaults only a handful were reported to the Health and Safety Executive in accordance with RIDDOR guidelines.

The figures are due to be presented to the union's northern conference later this month.



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