Ann Maguire killing: Teachers reveal horrifying tales of classroom violence
Wednesday 30 April 2014
The killing of Ann Maguire, stabbed to death in front of her class, has highlighted the risks inner city teachers take every day dealing with threats of violence in the classroom. The trauma suffered by many in the profession is shown in shocking personal accounts by teachers, often speaking on condition of anonymity.
Emma, a teaching assistant at a pupil referral unit in the West Midlands, has been “punched, kicked, sworn at, insulted, head butted, scratched, screamed at, bitten and had things thrown at me, most notably a table in my first week!” She copes with verbal abuse from pupils by imagining she is “surrounded by an invisible impenetrable barrier”. Although it’s “not an easy job” it is “highly rewarding” but having “a thick skin is a definite advantage.”
Alan Newland, a former headteacher in London, recalls an occasion where a 10-year-old boy brought a large penknife into school: “It came as a bit of shock because it had never happened before, we weren’t expecting it. I didn’t have a policy on kids bringing knives into school.”
He told The Independent: “He was threatening people with it. He was doing it in a jokey way but nevertheless the kid had a bit of a volatile background and when I took the knife from him his parents came in and demanded it back.”
Mr Newland said: “Where I’ve had issues with the threat of violence is not with kids but from the parents... I’ve had parents literally say to me ‘you do that and I’m going to fucking beat you to a pulp’ and I had no doubt that actually on the occasions that it happened these people were barely on the edge of self-control.”
A teacher from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, spoke of being repeatedly attacked. “This pupil had been trying to bite me, slap people, hit me with furniture, tried to choke me and then it escalated. I was hit in the leg with a missile and then the head.” He added: “I believe the child who attacked me should have been given one-to-one teaching, but there isn't the money for it; therefore I got hurt.”
Another teacher, from a school in Waltham Forest, London, said: “A student turned up to a practical lab session late, drunk and belligerent, put his foot in the door so I couldn't shut it, argued with the lab technician who tried to get him to leave, and attempted to hit security when they came to remove him.”
And a woman teaching at a primary school in the north of England described how she became “a hollow shell, wracked with lines and grey hairs and perpetual knots in my stomach” due to the presence of a boy who ‘ruled the classroom’ and made her 'feel scared'.”
One former teacher was forced out of the profession. “It started with an assault. It was quite a bad one, bruising and feeling rather shaken. The pupil had a history of aggressive behaviour and the rest. I reported it, as well as to the police. That was the start. The whole senior management team machinery turned on me. I was given a dressing down and from that point on it all started to go wrong... I was an ex-serviceman, confident and assertive. From the day the senior management team betrayed my trust all of that evaporated.”
He added: “More assaults followed. Once pupils sense you have been ‘breached’ they home in.”
He left the profession and is now retraining for a career in law. “My advice to those thinking of teaching - don’t.”
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