The Violent Society: Strike warning over disruptive pupils

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The Independent Online
TEACHERS will strike if they are forced to include violent or disruptive pupils in classes, the second biggest union in the profession warned yesterday.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' meeting in Blackpool backed a report which says that violence against teachers and pupils, including intimidation and extortion, is increasing.

The report offers teachers guidelines on how to restrain violent pupils. It says that throttling, shaking, hair-pulling, lifting or sitting on a pupil would almost always be deemed unreasonable.

However, holding hands or arms to control a pupil's dangerous movements or holding legs to prevent kicking would probably be within the law. The use of physical force to remove a weapon from a pupil is also permissible.

The report says: 'Teachers face an appalling dilemma when the duty of care can only be discharged through the use of physical restraint.'

The union says there are hundreds of cases each year in which heads instruct staff to teach violent pupils against their professional judgement.

The report says the union will consider balloting all members in such schools on industrial action on the grounds that the headteacher's instruction is unreasonable. It has recently organised strikes on the issue in two Birmingham schools.

It says: 'Deeply disturbed individual pupils who cause serious problems are present in growing numbers in schools. Their often erratic and bizarre behaviour is profoundly disruptive. In some cases alcohol and drug abuse are contributory factors.'

The guidelines advise teachers trying to control violent pupils to keep their tempers, to use only the minimum force needed and to keep talking to the pupil. They should summon a second teacher to provide a witness in case allegations of assault are made by pupils or parents.

It is extremely difficult, the report says, to define what the courts would consider an acceptable use of physical force.

Nigel de Gruchy, the NASUWT's general secretary, said there had been a sharp rise in assaults on teachers by pupils in the last two years.

He said the right of parents to appeal to the local authority against the exclusion of disruptive pupils by head and school governors meant that the odds were stacked too heavily in favour of the pupil.

The union wants the law amended so that all members of staff, as well as the head and governors, can appeal against a local authority's decision to re- admit an excluded pupil.

In the debate on discipline, Peter Cole, the union's vice- president, spoke of poverty, unemployment and television as possible reasons for growing violence among children.

He said: 'Since the advent of the video culture and the increasing impact of cable and satellite television, large and increasing numbers of youngsters are getting unrestricted access to pornography and

violence.'

Julian Johnston, a delegate from Essex, said: 'Bob Dylan was right in 1961 when he wrote: 'the times they are a changing, your sons and daughters are beyond your command'.'

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