Teachers feeling unsafe at school

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 02/07/2013

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Students pose a professional hazard for teachers, with many admitting to feeling unsafe in the classroom at some point in their school career.

Almost half of secondary school teachers at low-decile schools have reported feeling unsafe in the classroom because of pupils' bad behaviour, according to a survey of 1266 secondary school teachers.

The New Zealand Council for Educational Research's recent report on the state of our schools showed 60 per cent of surveyed teachers have faced bad behaviour from pupils that has seriously disrupted their teaching.

Just one in five teachers in low-decile schools said their classroom experience was trouble-free.

But most of those surveyed felt their school had good systems in place to deal with pupils' bad behaviour in 2012, the report shows.

About one in five teachers surveyed said they felt unsafe in their classrooms and a third felt unsafe on the school grounds at some point during their careers.

But the lower the school's decile, the worse the behaviour. Half of teachers from decile one and two schools who responded to the survey said they felt unsafe at least occasionally, compared with one in five in mid-decile schools and about 15 per cent in high-decile schools.

Figures released by ACC under the Official Information Act show of the 5714 claims for workplace injuries made by teachers in 2012, 280 were struck by a person or animal, 136 were pushed or pulled, and 132 reported being struck by a tool or implement. Ministry of Education figures show that in 2011, about 130 pupils 16 and over were stood down or suspended nationwide for physical or verbal attacks on school staff, but none were expelled.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said behavioural issues often mirrored a troubled background.

"How someone is acting in school is often a direct reflection of what is happening in wider society. Those kids are likely to be from homes that are struggling, and that shows itself in so many different ways."

About half of the teachers in the survey reported that they thought their schools dealt with behavioural issues well. Some schools are tackling the issue head on by signing on to the Ministry of Education's Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) scheme, which attracted $63.6 million from this year's Budget.

Rangitikei College, Awatapu College and Tararua College have all signed up for PB4L this year.

Tararua College acting principal Mary Zambasos said the school would use it in conjunction with restorative justice techniques to ensure pupils faced up to the consequences of their actions.

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"If that doesn't work we go down the other route, which is the punitive route where we will stand them down or suspend them."

Spending more on the scheme showed the Ministry of Education was taking the right steps to address behavioural issues in schools, Ms Roberts said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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