UK News: 'I got a black eye from a 5-year-old': London teachers facing more and more violence from really young pupils

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Staff working in London schools have described being kicked, punched and bitten by pupils, with one claiming they got a black eye from a pupil as young as five. A union representing teaching and classroom assistants has called for the end to violence against staff in schools after their survey showed 77 per cent have experienced attacks at work.

Pupils as young as five are assaulting staff (stock photo) © WalesOnline/Rob Browne Pupils as young as five are assaulting staff (stock photo)

Trade union GMB London surveyed over 970 teaching assistants based in mainstream schools across the Home Counties, London and the East of England. Responses showed a third experience violence every week. Injuries sustained at work from respondents include; broken bones, black eyes, broken noses, concussion, broken teeth, bites that break the skin, and torn ligaments.

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One GMB London teaching assistant said: "[I got a] black eye from a 5-year-old. It made me feel weak, like I couldn't deal with a situation, deflated, stressed and impacted on home life as my husband didn't want people to think he had hurt me."

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They added: "It really affects my mental health and I do not enjoy going to work knowing I won't be supported …. It does not matter how many incidents report forms I fill in."

While the survey was of teaching and classroom assistants to highlight the violence they face when working closely with pupils, the same issues are faced by teachers and other staff in schools. In Lambeth between 2020 and 2021 teachers and other staff were assaulted 80 times in the borough's schools.

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Another GMB member who was surveyed said: "It impacts on my daily life as I'm expected to turn up to my place of employment with the expectation of being physically harmed." Another said: "[I had] a lacerated eye after a child stabbed me in the eye with a pencil - I would rather not be one to one."

Another said they were "bitten, kicked, scratched, [had their] hair cut, stamped on, punched and slapped - I felt unappreciated and alone". The survey also showed:

  • 90 per cent of teaching assistants in schools are women;

  • 92 per cent of respondents work in mainstream schools;

  • Over 50 per cent feel violent assaults are not taken seriously by school leadership;

  • 70 per cent believe violence is expected to be tolerated as 'part of the job'

Lisa Bangs, GMB London Schools Lead, said: "The injuries being sustained by teaching assistants are brutal and we have been hearing from our members how the violence and abuse also impacts on their emotional wellbeing.

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"This tolerance of violence and abuse against support staff in schools must end. Head teachers are failing in their legal duty of care by allowing abuse and violence against their staff. This wouldn't happen in any other workplace. It is simple - nobody should be harmed or injured at work and GMB will be holding schools to account when they fail to protect members."

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