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School cuts leaving support staff at greater risk of abuse, warns Unison

Education cuts are making it harder to deal with pupils with behavioural problems and are putting school support staff increasingly at risk of assault, Unison has warned.

A new survey from the union found that 53% of teaching assistants have experienced physical violence at school and 76% have witnessed it. In addition, 60% have experienced verbal abuse and 69% have witnessed it.

Of those who had experienced abuse, 98% said they had experienced violence from pupils and 79% said they had experienced verbal abuse.

Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education, said: “This paints a grim picture of the way cuts and a general lack of cash are having a huge effect on school support staff.

“Lessons couldn’t go ahead without teaching assistants and staff should not have to put up with violence and abuse in the classroom. These are not just occasional incidents. Abuse is becoming a regular and alarming occurrence.”

Problems caused by education cuts included increased class sizes and reliance on supply support, less training for staff and a lack of resources to support the increasing numbers of children with special educational needs being taught in schools.

Among respondents, 27% said their school did not offer adequate training to address pupils’ behavioural problems, 24% said they had not been offered the opportunity to go on a course, and 9% said they did not know if their school offered training.

Furthermore, 19% said their school did not have an adequate behavioural policy and 15% said they did not know if their school had a behavioural policy, despite it being a legal requirement.

One school support worker surveyed by Unison said: “Issues with behaviour have seriously increased – teaching assistants are covering classes, but are not given enough support. Behaviour support workers are overloaded with cases that means 'minor' special educational needs such as dyslexia are not being addressed. Concerns about child protection and disruptive/violent behaviour are taking priority, and there is limited outside support available to help with these issues.”

A Sutton Trust survey, published this week, found that 6% of teachers said that their pupil premium funding, intended to provide support for disadvantaged pupils, was instead being used to cover general funding shortages.

A recent Public Accounts Committee criticised the DfE for missing its targets on teacher training, contributing to the shortage of teachers.

(Image c. Matt Cardy from PA Archive)

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