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Teachers may not break up fights

PUBLISHED: 18:00 05 June 2003 | UPDATED: 13:57 03 March 2010

FIGHTING pupils could be left to scrap it out by teachers fearful of getting involved.

Teachers' union official Tim Beech warned a rising tide of violence against his members meant they would have to think twice before breaking-up playground scraps.

FIGHTING pupils could be left to scrap it out by teachers fearful of getting involved.

Teachers' union official Tim Beech warned a rising tide of violence against his members meant they would have to think twice before breaking-up playground scraps.

And the NASUWT representative said threats of legal action and false accusations of teacher brutality made it even more difficult to take action.

But Marian Williams, an eastern region representative of the Parent Teachers Association, said it was "totally abhorrent" to suggest staff should fail their duty to intervene.

Mr Beech last week called for an end to "yob culture" after an 11-year-old boy hurled a brick at a headteacher.

And he said incidents of violence had left many of his members worried about getting involved in any physical confrontation.

He said: "Our advice is 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 you may be in physical danger.

"In some cases I think teachers may have to clear the classroom and let the kids fight."

A recent survey by the NASUWT revealed a teacher was verbally or physically attacked once every seven minutes across the country.

Now a zero tolerance campaign is to be launched in eastern England and Mr Beech called on schools to support it.

He said: "We expect any child who verbally assaults a teacher to be excluded for at least a day and any physical assaults should be met with a permanent exclusion."

But Mrs Williams said exclusions were not the answer and claimed teachers who could not handle difficult situations should find another job.

She said: "We have too many teachers doing the job who are not up to it.

"School teachers are in loco parentis – they are responsible for each and every child.

"No parent has the right to walk away and neither does the teacher.

"I taught for 25 years in some of the toughest schools and I found out a small 5ft 3in woman can put herself between two strapping 16 or 17-year-old boys."

Mrs Williams fully supported reducing attacks on teachers, but said adapting the system to individual needs would work better than zero tolerance.

She said: "Our current academic system is too tailored towards tests that only suit about five per cent of children.

"These kids aren't demons, they are just saying the system doesn't fit."

David Forrest, headteacher of Orwell High School, Felixstowe, said: "Our policy is straightforward – you don't touch – unless.

"And the unless is that a student is about to cause themselves or somebody else physical harm.

"Under those circumstances we would, and do, separate fights. Thankfully it's a very rare thing.

"From my point of view it's part of our duty of care in looking after students."

Laurie Robinson, headteacher of Copleston High School, Ipswich said: "It's very rare, but at times teachers are called upon to make some very difficult professional decisions.

"They have to make a judgement about health and safety and they have to consider the health and safety of everybody involved.

"It's about individual cases based upon common sense and health and safety."

David Oliver, headteacher of Stowmarket High School, said: "Our policy would be to stop students fighting, if you have to use restraining force then you have to do that.

"We're in loco parentis – if someone is in danger because of what is happening then you step in.

"Teachers are wary of the litigious society we live in, but I think common sense would prevail."

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