Teachers expected to step in

'BREAK it up.'That was the advice from Ipswich parents and school staff today weighing in to the controversial recommendation teachers should simply walk away from warring pupils.

'BREAK it up.'

That was the advice from Ipswich parents and school staff today weighing in to the controversial recommendation teachers should simply walk away from warring pupils.

On Thursday The Evening Star reported a teaching union was recommending staff to stand back from playground scraps for fear of assault and legal recriminations.

Tom Smith, a 71-year-old teaching assistant at Gosford Primary School, said: "You have to intervene if a group of children are fighting.

"When a parent drops a child off at school then effectively the teacher becomes the parent. If you don't stop a fight someone could get very badly hurt."

But mother-of-three, Colette Stretton, whose 15 and 12-year-old attend Chantry High School, said: "I can see both points of view. If it was your child involved you would want a teacher to intervene to stop it. But from a teacher's perspective if there was danger involved I can see it wouldn't be right to step in."

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Reaction came after teachers' union Tim Beech warned that a rising tide of violence against its members meant they would have to think twice before breaking up playground scraps.

The NASUWT representative said threats of legal action and false accusation of teacher brutality made it difficult to intervene.

He said: "Our advice it that you should never touch students because of the possibility of false allegations. In a fight you are entering a dangerous scene of confrontation and maybe in physical danger."

Most opinion in Ipswich believed trusting teachers' experience is the best course.

Mrs Stretton added: "I think the best thing to do would be to leave it to the discretion of the teacher. After all, it is the teacher who should know the children best and should be able to assess the troublemakers."

Adrian Riley, 19, from Bury St Edmunds was picked on by a gang of children in a fight at King Edward VI School.

He said: "I wish there had been a teacher there to stop it. One boy and then suddenly a whole gang of his friends surrounded me. I was punched in the face twenty times.

"I think whether teachers should intervene depends on the extent of the fight. If it's just a niggle then you can let them get on with it but if it's more serious then it needs to be stopped."

Ex dinner lady, Heather Goodwin, who worked at schools including Stoke High School for 11 years, used to break up fights.

She said: "I have got between boys to break up a fight. You never actually grab a pupil. But you can use your body and hands to pull them apart. But you had to read the situation and judge how likely it was you were putting yourself in danger.

"But children are a lot more aggressive these days. I can see how that would make it more difficult to intervene."

Grandmother-of-four, Grace Farthing, from Hadleigh said: "Teachers have to break it up if pupils are knocking nine bells out of each other. You cannot expect young children to sort out their differences."

N What do you think? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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