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20% of teachers in England physically assaulted by students in 2023: Study

A survey conducted by the BBC in February and March has revealed that nearly 20% of teachers in England have reported being physically assaulted by a student over the course of 2023. (File photo)

A study has revealed that nearly 20% of teachers in England have reported being physically assaulted by a student over the course of 2023.

The survey, conducted by the BBC in February and March, involved approximately 9,000 teachers in England using the Teacher Tapp survey tool.

It revealed that 30% of teachers reported witnessing students engaging in physical altercations within the last week.

The poll showed 15% of teachers working with pupils aged 11-18 said they had experienced sexual harassment from a pupil while at school.

One teacher told BBC News behavior was a “never-ending battle.” Another said spitting, swearing and chair-throwing were among the things happening often.

Lorraine Meah, who has been a primary school teacher for 35 years, said she has seen nursery and reception-aged children "spitting and swearing," with the worst behavior from five and six-year-olds with "dangerous tendencies" like throwing chairs.

"You will get three or four children in your class displaying challenging behavior. That's hard to deal with when you've got a class of 30," Meah, who teaches in the Midlands, told the BBC.

The actions have led NASUWT teaching union to consider new strike action due to the "dystopian levels" of stress staff members are experiencing.

Amanda Spielman, the education chief, attributed a rise in disruptive classroom behavior to the lack of "socialization" resulting from Covid lockdowns, according to the recent findings.

The former leader of Ofsted, the UK's school inspection agency, said resolving the issue would require several years and was consuming a significant portion of head teachers' time.

Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT union, says teachers have observed a significant increase in violence and abuse within schools since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is being compounded by cuts to specialist behavior and mental health services for children, which have left teachers doing their best to fill the gaps and meet the needs of pupils that really require the skills of specialist counselors and therapists," he told the BBC.

Since September 2023, one in five participants in the BBC's survey reported encountering online abuse from a parent or guardian. Additionally, an equivalent percentage stated that they had been subjected to verbal abuse.

"It can be face-to-face, on the telephone, on social media... enough is enough," said Debra de Muschamp, a regional NAHT secretary who runs three primary schools in northeast England.

Teachers, as well as workers in various other professions such as doctors and train drivers, went on strike multiple times in 2023 due to a nationwide cost-of-living emergency. They eventually agreed to a 6.5% salary increase in July.

The union has been seeking input from its members regarding potential renewed industrial action concerning pay, workload, and well-being.

"Teachers in the UK are experiencing dystopian levels of workload and work-related stress," said NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach.

"They can't go on much longer without reform to their pay, their workloads, their working hours and their rights at work."

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