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Teachers face risk of violence on a daily basis

For some teachers in Northern Ireland, panic buttons are no longer urban myths but a last line of defence against violent incidents.

The reasons for violence in the classroom are manifold - not least though are class size, a growing number of children with special needs, lack of resources and support for those children, and inadequate training for teachers in special educational needs and behavioural management.

If our teachers are to be expected to cope they must have adequate support and training.

The Department of Education must provide increased opportunities for newly qualified teachers and those in their early professional development to attend training courses in areas including special educational needs and behaviour management.

Teachers have the same rights as every other employee to work in a safe environment and it is a callous neglect on the part of the employing authorities to send a teacher into a situation where their personal safety is at risk.

Schools and teachers don't publicise incidents because of the sensitivity of issues often involved - these are children, often they have special educational needs - so only the very worst cases make it into the public domain. But be under no illusion, violence in the classroom is a daily risk and an all too common occurrence for many teachers.

Every week we are contacted by teachers about this.

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In one incident a child of five had assaulted three members of staff, one of which was the school principal.

The teacher concerned had to move the remainder of the class to the corridor for their own safety until the child calmed down.

The public isn't hearing about all these incidents, but if a shop worker or a clerical officer was subject to this there would be an outcry.

  • Avril Hall-Callaghan is general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union

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