Teacher attack figures in Powys are 'tip of the iceberg' says union official


Jonny Drury

Headteachers in Powys are ignoring abuse against teachers to protect their schools from Estyn and official figures on teaching attacks are false.

That is the view of Neil Butler, of the National Executive of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

He has hit out at the latest figures from NUT Cymru, which stated 90 attacks occurred on teachers in Powys in the past three years.

He believes the number is the “tip of the iceberg” and that schools with high exclusion numbers are protecting staff and not underperforming.

He said: “The real figure is far, far higher.

“The NASUWT raised this with the authority last year, and said there was an enormous number of verbal and physical attacks which were being recorded at school level but then not to the local authority.

“Members assumed that these attacks were being reported, but we have found out this is not the case.

“Possibly nervous that the real figure would bring unwanted attention to them from the inspectorate.

“Estyn are saying to schools you must have low standards because of high exclusion numbers, when in fact the opposite is the case.

“Schools that exclude abusive pupils are protecting staff and other pupils and ensuring that they can teach and learn in a peaceful environment.

“I am afraid the figure of 90 is just the tip of the iceberg.

“So desperate are headteachers to retain the fallacy of good order in their schools to protect them from the gaze of Estyn and the local authority that they pretend it is not a problem and does not exists.”

The NUT figures noted five attacks in three years with verbal abuse, with 85 physical attacks.

Mr Butler said these are criminal offences and teachers do not enter the profession to be abused.

He added: “Assaults on teachers are criminal offences and our message to our members has always been that if the school doesn’t take it seriously then perhaps the police will.

“There seems to be a growing acceptance amongst school managers that it is part of the job.

“Posters in doctors’ surgeries warn visitors of zero tolerance to abuse of staff, but they aren’t found in school.

“Powys CC has a corporate policy for its staff to protect against violence but no such order in schools.

“Teachers did not enter the profession to be abused.

“Let us all accept that a school that excludes children who abuse teachers is not a failure.

“In fact it would be a beacon of hope to all teachers and pupils in Powys schools.”

In response, cabinet member for education Cllr Arwel Jones said the council has a robust system to deal with the problem.

He said: “The county council has a very robust system where schools are required to report violence to the authority which is closely monitored.

“It is the responsibility of the schools and their governing bodies to ensure that their behaviour policies reflect the consequence for pupils and members of the public should any member of staff be subject to violence or abuse.

“The local authority is able to provide support and guidance to all schools on the subject.” 

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