General Secretary interviewed on rise in assaults on primary school teachers in Derby

BBC Radio Derby, Friday 11 January 2019

By Richard Fraser, Editor

BBC Radio Derby: Rise in number of assaults on primary school teachers in Derby (from start, 1:00:00, 2:00:00  (news) and 2:15:48 (report and interview)

News bulletins:

General Secretary Deborah Lawson:

“Many [teachers] cited psychological impact as being a significant thing that’s leaving them feeling unsafe at work. Schools have to ensure that their staff feel safe, and it’s not just about whether or not they have a cut that’s healed – what you don’t see whether its’s healed is psychological impact.”

General Secretary Deborah Lawson:

“There are a range of factors, many of which are external to schools – austerity measures have hit not only schools but other agencies that support families and therefore some of the help that perhaps could have been available before now is not available subsequently and that is spilling over to behaviour in school.”


General Secretary Deborah Lawson:

“Sadly, we know [about assaults on teachers], because we are currently surveying our members on this at the moment, and we are doing so because we were hearing from them that the stage of education at which there was becoming a greater prevelance was younger, with more incidents in the primary sector, so we are specifically surveying our members on this.

“And we know that everybody wants to be safe in their workplace… everyone deserves to be safe in their workplace.

“But I think we should not underestimate those things that are happening outside of school, that are outside the school’s control, and we must not underestimate the impact of austerity and social and welfare measures within the wider communities.

[Responding to interviewer]:

“Well, we do know that there have been incidents, sadly, where teachers or school staff have been attacked and assaulted by parents as well, but I think when we’re looking at some of the things that impact on this that might be some of the things that cause them, there are other agencies involved that are often involved at a much younger age.

“Now the austerity measures that we’ve all been subject to for over ten years now actually means that as the funding levels have dropped, the thresholds for help have increased, so there’s a bigger gap, and that actually means that families and some children who need help, and in the past may actually have received help are not receiving it or are not receiving it as quickly.

[Interviewer: And the teacher ends up first in the firing line.”]

“Unfortunately – yes.

[On the impact on staff]

“Well, again, it’s quite disturbing that our members are saying to us that although very few of them have required medical attention as a result of an assault, the psychological impact on them, and the fact that they no longer feel safe, in their workplace is of greater impact.

[On the undermining of teacher’s confidence and respect for them]:

“Yes [they are important].  We have to look at the much bigger picture here and what previous governments have said and what previous politicians have said about teachers in the past that hasn’t been the most complimentary, and actually that has eroded respect for teachers generally.

[What’s the answer?]

“Well, obviously teachers need to, and do know, or should know, the behaviour policy in their school, and also what the policy is around violence to staff, because they need to know what is expected of them in those situations.

"It is about talking to your colleagues, talking to your headteacher. And if there are particular incidents, if there is ongoing behaviour with a number of pupils, or whether it is a culture that is developing within school, because, again those cultures that are developing outside – youth violence and gang culture – and I’m actually going to a meeting with MPs on Monday about youth violence – will actually come in to schools and it’s very hard for schools to work on that, and they need to know what’s expected of them and what support is available to them to be able to counteract this.”    

Further information

Take part in the survey: Violence against school staff


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