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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Schools of hard knocks

Schools of hard knocks
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New Zealand

Some 40% of primary school teachers are experiencing threats of violence and actual assault – most of it from pupils and their parents.

That is one of the disturbing findings in a newly released study, carried out by the Australian Catholic University, on behalf of the NZEI Te Riu Roa.

Female teachers were more likely than their male counterparts to receive both threats and actual violence (40% and 43% compared to 34% and 38%), but while principals reported slightly more threats than other staff members, their deputies and assistants were more likely to suffer assault.

Special schools, where pupils have a range of significant issues, had by far the highest rate of physical violence, with 79% of staff reporting incidents.

Pupils were responsible for the majority of both threats (19.7%) and actual violence (28%), with parents being responsible for 15% of threats but only 4% of assaults.

The study also found a high incidence of other concerning behaviours, with 67% of teachers reporting that they had been involved in a conflict or quarrel – either between students, or a student and teacher – in the preceding year, 59% saying they had been a subject of gossip or slander, and 38% reporting bullying. The study says this rate of bullying is almost five times that of the wider population. This behaviour was most likely to be associated with other adults, including parents, colleagues, managers or superiors, and subordinates.

Those in urban schools were more likely to be threatened with or suffer violence, or to be bullied, while those in isolated communities had a higher incidence of unpleasant teasing, conflicts and quarrels, and gossip or slander.

While emphasising that offensive behaviour by adults is unacceptable in a learning environment, the report stresses that it does not seek to lay blame on pupils, noting that, because of under-resourcing, many young children are not having their needs met in the education system.

“This research underlines the critical and urgent need to increase resourcing and capacity in teachers, school leaders and school support, and for specialist systems to manage and de-escalate the challenging behaviour of some students,” it says.

In a list of recommendations, it calls for special needs coordinators for every school, better resourcing for the Ministry of Education’s Learning Support field staff, an advocacy and mediation service to resolve conflicts that may impact on a school, professional training in de-escalation skills for all frontline staff, and both mentoring and counselling support for staff dealing with violent situations.



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