Plan to reclaim classrooms from yobs

Thousands of Norfolk teachers are set to get help in their battle to reclaim the classrooms from violent and abusive pupils, the EDP can reveal. A countywide behaviour strategy is being drawn up, just weeks after a shocking survey lifted the lid on the litany of physical and verbal abuse suffered every day by some teachers.

Thousands of Norfolk teachers are set to get help in their battle to reclaim the classrooms from violent and abusive pupils, the EDP can reveal.

A countywide behaviour strategy is being drawn up, just weeks after a shocking survey lifted the lid on the litany of physical and verbal abuse suffered every day by some teachers.

The strategy will spell out what is and is not acceptable, and will demand that all pupils treat school staff with respect. Teachers will also get training on how to deal with unruly students.

But last night, one of the unions behind the snapshot survey said time was being allowed to “drag on” - and meanwhile more teachers were being abused, attacked and driven out of the profession.

Colin Collis, Norfolk secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said: “The councillors and officers are aware of our concerns. We do want to see some action and some outcomes. But we are very much in limbo.

“We are aware that money has been set aside to implement a behaviour strategy, but time is dragging on and with each week that passes more teachers will be abused or threatened with violence.

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“That could mean the end of somebody's career or it could be a further element in a teacher's decision to leave the profession.”

The NASUWT joined forced with the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers for the survey, which asked teachers to report on incidents in one week at the end of 2006.

Almost 150 incidents were recorded - including foulmouthed racist and homophobic abuse, physical attacks, assaults with objects, threats of violence and verbal attacks by parents.

The results of the survey were shared with Norfolk County Council's children's services department, which said it was “not pushing the evidence under the carpet”.

Deputy director Fred Corbett said: “The message to staff is very strong. We are working with the unions and accepting strongly the pressures that teachers are under and that they report they are under.

“We are not ignoring it or pushing the evidence under the carpet. We know that the vast majority of teachers have very successful relationships with the vast majority of children. We want that to be with all children.”

Mr Corbett said the new behaviour strategy would focus on “all the strands that influence behaviour”.

He said experts would be commissioned to develop a training programme to help staff deal with aggression, and added: “A behaviour strategy should be a cornerstone of any children's services department.

“It will set out our expectations for behaviour and how people can and do deal with it.”

But he added that there was “no point” if the only solution for bad behaviour was to exclude pupils from school, because it simply meant they became “somebody else's problem”.

Mr Corbett said: “The evidence from school inspections suggests that behaviour is better in Norfolk than other parts of the country.

“We don't have some of the extreme behaviour that leads to the kind of gang violence you read about in some parts of urban Britain.

“On the other hand, reports coming through from teachers suggest that more youngsters, and at an earlier age, are exhibiting challenging behaviour.

“There's a concern that there isn't the same respect shown to teachers and other adults working in schools that there should be. It's a very small but very important minority.

“Everybody has to work together. Everybody has to have high standards of expectation about youngsters' behaviour, but we also have to treat youngsters with respect and not demonise them.”

He added: “We are 100pc behind the people working in our schools.”

Mr Collis said the three unions had not been “engaged in any proper debate” since the results were made public in March.

He said: “We want to engage sooner rather than later. I'm disappointed that it hasn't happened so far. I think it's being taken seriously, but there isn't the capacity in the authority to do it.

“I believe we can explore and arrive at some effective strategies to deal with some of the problems we've got. We could take a much more robust line on mobile phones, for example.”