Northern Ireland news

Classroom staff assaulted daily, conference told

INTO northern secretary Gerry Murphy addresses the union's northern conference

TEACHERS and classroom assistants are being physically and verbally assaulted by pupils on a daily basis.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) northern conference in Belfast yesterday heard calls for an end to aggression and violence in schools.

More than 200 delegates heard that huge increases in class sizes were contributing to behavioural issues which made assaults more likely.

Members were told that there were many incidents where teachers were threatened by parents and "the vast number of threats remain unreported".

A report published last summer by the Education Authority highlighted that assaults continued to steadily increase.

In 2017/18 there were 980 health and safety incidents of which 434 were assaults on staff. Of these, 268 were on classroom assistants and 139 on teachers.

The union backed calls for a zero tolerance approach.

The conference debated motions on issues including teacher salaries, industrial action which involves refusing to cooperate with inspections, changes to special educational needs and funding.

INTO northern secretary Gerry Murphy said teachers faced "additional and unrelenting workload" and salaries that failed to reflect members' worth.

"The education service, financed from the public purse, has endured 10 per cent of cuts to the overall education budget from the 2010/11 year," he said.

"The result of these cuts means 720 teachers less in schools at a time when pupil numbers have increased by 15,000.

"The 10 per cent cut to the budget in the context of rising pupil numbers, the relentless drive to improve standards and increase parental expectations is a recipe for chaos."

Mr Murphy told delegates that education bodies had been vocal in saying that they could not any longer deliver the levels of service they did previously.

"I'm saying today those two bodies and the Department of Education can't any longer expect, you the teachers to pick up the deficit. We are not going to accept the additional responsibility, liability and workload that they are thrusting upon us. Our young people deserve better as do their teachers," he said.

"Our medium and long-term focus has to be about ensuring more money is devoted to the education budget as a whole. But it would be foolish and misleading for me to suggest that change of such magnitude though it be necessary and essential will easily be brought about. It is not however impossible."

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