New research examining the scale of pupil behaviour concerns among teachers in Northern Ireland, published today by the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union has found that the overwhelming majority of teachers say verbal and physical abuse from pupils has increased significantly in the last 12 months.
More than six in ten (62%) cited poor socialisation skills following Covid restrictions as being the greatest driving factor behind the rise in poor pupil behaviour. Ineffectively implemented restorative behaviour programmes in schools and colleges and a lack of appropriate policies and procedures to deter unacceptable behaviour were the next most commonly cited factors behind the increase in poor behaviour.
37% of respondents reported experiencing violence or physical abuse from pupils in the previous 12 months. Teachers reported having items thrown at them, being bitten, spat at, headbutted, punched and kicked.
90% reported receiving verbal abuse, including being sworn at, threatened and targeted with racial or sexual insults.
The survey found that:
- 89% said the number of pupils exhibiting physically violent and abusive behaviours has increased in the last 12 months;
- 95% said that the number of pupils verbally abusing staff members has increased in the last 12 months;
- One in five (20%) reported needing time off work due to the stress, physical or mental health impact of violence and abuse from pupils;
- Over half (56%) said they are seriously considering leaving as a result of violence and abuse from pupils.
- Only 15% of teachers said that appropriate action was always taken by their school or college when they reported behaviour incidents;
- Nearly half (48%) strongly agree or agree that they are made to feel to blame by their employer if they have an issue with poor pupil behaviour
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said:
“While concerns about pupil behaviour are not new, our research indicates an alarming increase in violent and defiant behaviour by some pupils.
“The lack of appropriate in-school support and long waiting lists to access specialist services are contributing to a behaviour crisis which schools are struggling to contain.
“However, instead of giving better support to classroom teachers, too many schools and colleges are placing responsibility for poor pupil behaviour at the door of teachers. This culture of teacher blaming is becoming increasingly widespread, whilst bad employers are failing to take seriously their responsibilities for ensuring the health, safety and welfare of staff working in schools and colleges.”
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said:
“While Stormont remains in limbo, teachers in Northern Ireland are facing a daily barrage of violence, threats and abuse in their classrooms.
“A failure to tackle violence and abuse in schools and colleges today will have long-lasting consequences for teacher recruitment and retention and for the education of children and young people.
“The NASUWT will continue to take all steps possible to protect our members from violence and abuse at work. But, we need to see action at national level and from employers to ensure all schools and colleges are safe and orderly environments for our teachers to teach and children and young people to learn.”