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The NASUWT has been giving evidence to MPs on the issues affecting members in Northern Ireland, warning that teacher numbers are not keeping pace with increasing numbers of pupils and pay is less than the rest of the UK.

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said the workforce was shrinking due to redundancies as more children were entering the system.

And he said the loss of support staff in classrooms was largely to blame for a significant increase in the numbers of assaults on teachers. The latest figures show the number of reported physical assaults on teachers in Northern Ireland rose from 210 in the 2014/15 academic year to 650 in 2015/16.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee heard that new teachers in Northern Ireland are paid 6.6% less than their counterparts in England and Wales, 23% less than equivalents in Scotland and 47% less than their colleagues in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr McCamphill told MPs: "In 2010 we had 329,500 children, we now have 340,000. In 2010 there were 20,136 teachers but now only 19,867.

"If we had kept the ratios the same since 2010 there would be 20,781 teachers now.

"The problem isn't that we are training too many teachers, the problem is that we have been making teachers redundant.

"Therefore, there hasn't been jobs for those who have been trained because the workforce is being downsized at the same time as the number of children has increased."

Committee member and Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon recalled seeing a young pupil at a mainstream school in Northern Ireland assault a teacher, overturn desks and wreck the classroom before being placed into a room on his own with a classroom assistant.

"The teacher was still at work the next day, but for the first time ever in my life I saw exactly what it meant," he said.

Mr McCamphill said that often when children with behavioural issues lose their individual teaching assistant, it can result in violent behaviour.

He said that over the past year, the number of pupils on the special needs register increased by 2,800, and there has been 800 more pupils with statements for special needs.

"That's happening at the same time while special school provision is being reviewed, and the number of those pupils with statements who are in special schools has fallen from 9.8% to 7.5%," he told the committee.

"We therefore are finding that children may be inappropriately placed in mainstream not because it is necessarily the best place but because the employing authorities, due to financial considerations, are having to put the responsibility for that provision on schools.

"Our concern is that when that provision is put on schools...the support isn't put there.

"We have had to deal with situations with young people with severe mental health problems, with behavioural problems who have had an individual classroom assistant, that individual classroom assistant is withdrawn. Because the pupil doesn't have that support..that can lead to quite violent behaviour."

He added: "Between 2015 and 2016 there was an almost doubling in the number of attacks on school staff by pupils. We would say that corelates directly with the withdrawal of classroom assistants."

Mr McCamphill said: "When cuts are happening in schools, schools have constraints around pupil hours, teacher hours and class sizes, so the first people unfortunately to lose their jobs are support staff.

"If a teacher is assaulted the mental health problems that causes for that teacher leads them to take time off and the problem then starts to spiral out of control."


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