Jump in school staff attacks

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Figures released detailing the numbers of pupils suspended from schools here as a result of attacks on staff are only the tip of the iceberg, it’s been claimed.

Figures released detailing the numbers of pupils suspended from schools here as a result of attacks on staff are only the tip of the iceberg, it’s been claimed.

Figures obtained by the ‘Sunday Journal’ for the school year 2010/2011 show that 22 pupils were suspended from school after attacks on teachers and other members of staff in the Western Board area. However, a WELB spokesperson said other incidents may have taken place which were resolved without suspension and therefore not included in the statistics.

Derry based Irish National Teachers Organisation representative Brendan Harron said there had been a “massive increase” in attacks on staff in the past ten years.

He said there were incidents of very young children “kicking, biting and scratching” and that many teachers are at their wits end with the bureacracy involved in resolving these situations.

Mr. Harron said suspension was a last resort for staff but that in many instances it was simply unavoidable.

He said: “There are teachers in Primary one and Primary two classrooms who cannot cope. A child starts kicking off and wrecking the classroom and other children have to be put out of there. The problem is that many of these children are presenting with behavioural difficulties which are not diagnosed and referrals to psychologists take so long.

“I know there has in the past been a two year wait on some boards and that’s not good enough, in the meantime you have a pupil who is attacking staff, attacking young children and kicking and punching. Obviously teachers are trained to deal with ordinary behavioural issues but there are a huge number of serious behavioural issues which is very disruptive.”

Mr. Harron said more funding is needed in terms of early diagnosis.

“Early intervention is vital for the good of everyone involved, from the disruptive child to the teacher and to the other children.”

A WELB spokesperson said: “In 2010/11, there were 22 occasions of suspension for physical attack on staff in schools located in WELB, involving 21 pupils. The figures are based on Key Stage one to four only in primary, post-primary and special schools. These figures refer to school staff rather than teachers specifically and only include attacks which resulted in suspension. It is possible that there were further incidents which were dealt with in other ways.”