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TUC Congress ’19 No teacher should have to go to work with the expectation that they will be abused

Teachers cannot teach and pupils cannot learn where there is disruption and violence in school, writes CHRIS KEATES

TEACHERS now cite pupil indiscipline in schools as second only to workload in their top concerns about their job. 

Three-quarters of teachers believe there is a problem with pupil indiscipline in schools generally and well over half say there is a problem in their own school.

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.

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.

No teacher should have to go to work expecting that they will be abused. All workers are entitled to a safe working environment, free from violence and disruption.  

But just as disturbing as the incidence of verbal and physical abuse is the rise of a culture of “blame the teacher” as a response to the increase in pupil indiscipline. 

Teachers subjected to verbal abuse, daily disruption and physical assault are asked what they did to provoke the pupil or told that verbal and physical abuse are all part of the job. 

These are the responses of those who have lost touch with the day-to-day reality of the classroom, who do not value teachers’ professionalism and compound the problem by undermining and disempowering them.

Teachers cannot teach and pupils cannot learn where there is disruption and violence.

As part of our ongoing support for members individually and collectively in tackling pupil indiscipline, NASUWT has issued posters to be used in classrooms and public areas of schools which make it clear that verbal and physical abuse will not be tolerated and that staff in schools are there to help and should be respected. 

Mirroring those seen regularly in NHS hospitals, GP surgeries and railway stations, these posters are now displayed prominently in schools nationwide, sending a strong statement to pupils, parents and visitors of the standards of behaviour expected towards staff.

But schools cannot tackle these issues alone. Government must take responsibility for the impact of policies which have reduced or removed internal and external specialist support for pupils for whom behaviour issues are a barrier to learning, which have driven qualified and specialist teachers out of the profession and narrowed the curriculum offer, increasing disaffection among pupils and limiting their life chances, and which have drastically cut support for children, young people and families.

NASUWT will continues to hold to account and challenge employers and government for any failure to protect the health and welfare of teachers who are delivering one of the country’s most vital public services.

Chris Keates is acting general secretary of NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union.

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