Teachers are there to teach, not police violent pupils

PUBLISHED: 17:36 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:11 29 March 2019

Latest figures show there has been a rise of reported violent incidents in schools in Norfolk and Suffolk

Latest figures show there has been a rise of reported violent incidents in schools in Norfolk and Suffolk

Cathy Yeulet

Teachers are there to teach, not police violent pupils

The phrase ‘safe space’ has become increasingly ridiculed on recent times as something used by snowflakes and the weak of mind. To take its original meaning, it does what it says on the tin – providing a place of sanctuary to those who might feel endangered from physical or mental threats from others.

Schools are the ultimate ‘safe space’, or at least they ought to be. All parents trust that when they drop off little Jimmy and Jemima at the school gates in the morning, they will spend the day in at atmosphere of safety.

Crime figures released this week by Norfolk and Suffolk Police show a worrying rise in crimes of violence in the counties’ schools. Possession of weapons in Norfolk increased three-fold year on year in Norfolk, although remained static in Suffolk. Violence against the person, which accounts for a third of all crime in both counties, rose by 5% in Suffolk by a whopping 24% in Norfolk. Public order offences have shot up by 75% in Norfolk over the last two years and 27% in Suffolk. But it’s not all bad news. Theft in both counties dropped by 20%, while drug offences dropped by 38% in Norfolk and 18% in Suffolk.

These figures look quite stark, yet we shouldn’t run away with the thought that our counties’ schools are havens of violence and crime. In Norfolk the total number of crimes in schools actually dropped from 924 to 901. In Suffolk there was a similar decline from 724 reported crimes in schools in 2017 to 709 in 2018.

In addition, given there are 53 secondary schools in Norfolk and 43 in Suffolk, as well as several hundred primary schools, we should not run away with the thought that each of our schools is experiencing multiple crimes each year. Most schools don’t experience any crimes at all.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a serious problem to address, not just for our law enforcement authorities, but also our schools and teachers. What we must avoid at all costs is the thought that teachers have got to be turned into quasi law enforcement officers themselves. Teachers are there to teach. They have enough non-teaching burdens thrust upon them as it is, without trying to police their schools too.

Some local politicians put the rise in violent crime down to squeezed school budgets, whereas others say that the withdrawal of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) from schools has been a disaster. They had been a bulwark in providing an effective deterrent to crime and bullying. The police say the increase in violent crime could be down to improved reporting of such incidents. This smacks of utter complacency.

Having said that, we tend to think of violence in the classroom only occurring in secondary schools, and primarily promulgated by older pupils. Not true any longer. A teacher friend of mine in a Norwich primary school tells me that virtually every day there are examples of six or seven year olds having to be physically restrained or teachers being attacked. I doubt whether many of these incidents are reported.

I feel very strongly about this. When I was at university (UEA, incidentally) back in the 1980s, I fully intended to go into teaching. I wanted to teach German. I think I would have been good at it, but my life took a different path when I caught the political bug. I have often thought about what I do next. All radio careers end at some point, and I have seriously considered whether I might spend the twilight years of my working life working in teaching.

What puts me off is that the profession has changed so much over the decades. The bureaucracy is massive, the ability of teachers to impose discipline in the classroom has diminished over the decades, and the curriculum is incredibly restrictive and stifling.

All this makes me think that it’s probably not for me. Isn’t that sad?

Email Iain at or follow him on Twitter @IainDale

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