Norfolk teachers subjected to nearly 1,000 physical and verbal attacks over three years

Rob Anthony: Rob Anthony: "Its incredibly rare to find any student in any school with a weapon of any kind"

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
9:01 AM

Norfolk teachers have suffered almost 1,000 ‘violent incidents’ over the past three years, according to official figures.

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Key facts

Thirty-six possession of a weapon offences were recorded in Norfolk schools between 2007 and 2013.

Eleven people were charged with such crimes.

Knives were the most common weapons recovered in these incidents, with at least 22 found.

Other weapons found include one CS spray, two imitation firearms, three knuckle dusters and one piece of wood with nails in it.

Between 2007 and 2012, police recorded four 11- year-olds at school with an offensive weapon.

Thirteen-year-olds were the group with the highest number of offenders, with 11.

Most of the offenders were dealt with by a reprimand, with final warnings, summons and restorative justice procedures also 
used.

Police said only one of the seizures was at a primary school – in 2007.

The statistics, which include verbal as well as physical abuse against school staff, show a steep fall in the number of reports last year. They include attacks on staff by pupils, parents and other members of the public.

It comes amid shock following the fatal stabbing of Spanish teacher Ann Maguire at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds on Monday.

Norfolk County Council recorded a total of 251 attacks it described as ‘violent incidents’ against teachers between April 2013 and March 2014, compared with 386 in 2012-13, and 297 in 2011-12.

Mick Castle, cabinet member for schools at the council, said: “Schools are often at the heart of their communities and have a balance to strike between being open and welcoming the local community, and safeguarding the welfare of students and staff.

Union: Schools very safe day-to-day

For Colin Collis, county secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, Norfolk schools are “a very safe place to be” on a day-to-day basis.

He said in recent years the union had not held any refusal to teach ballots, where teachers vote not to teach a particular pupil who is violent or disruptive.

He said: “We have come close to it with a couple of kids, but, in the main, the majority of Norfolk youngsters are generally well behaved, but that is not to say there are not issues. The issues mainly revolve around petty, low-level disruption which just makes it difficult to teach, and stressful to teach.”

He added: “These incidents involving pupils assaulting teachers are mercifully rare, but we have had occasions where inappropriate items have been brought into schools, but that has not translated into violence in school.”

He said in the last two years, online abuse of teachers has become very problematic, with inappropriate comments from either parents or pupils reaching a level the union was concerned about. He said it is very difficult to deal with.

“Usually, they do this very well indeed and I know headteachers and staff work extremely hard to ensure their school are safe places to learn, teach and visit.

“As the local authority, we take our duty of care for our staff very seriously indeed, and always encourage schools to tell us about any incident of physical or verbal abuse so we can offer appropriate support and advice and work together to try to prevent incidents from happening whenever possible.”

The council figures come against a background of fewer violent and weapon crimes recorded by Norfolk police in the county’s schools.

The number of violence against the person crimes at secondary schools fell to 71 in 2012-13, from 118 in 2010-11.

In one notorious recent incident in Norfolk, teenager Minheng He was jailed after stabbing a student at the private Langley School in Loddon in October 2012.

Police recorded four possession of a weapon crimes last year, and charged one person, compared to eight such offences in 2010. A total of 36 weapons crimes were recorded across Norfolk’s more-than 400 schools from 2007 to 2013.

Rob Anthony, associate headteacher of The Hewett School in Norwich, said: “I think the thing to bear in mind is that the reason the Leeds situation is so shocking is because it is so incredibly rare.

“Young people, for all the bad press that they get, don’t carry knives and walk around armed to the teeth. It’s incredibly rare to find any student in any school with a weapon of any kind.

“Clearly there have been some incidents, but it shows the low level of it happening. The only time we have had something, it was a situation where a child had brought some into school without realising. We had a lad who was going fishing at the weekend and brought a fishing knife in.”

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