Hundreds Of Teachers Assaulted In NZ Schools

It’s good to know that the days of investigative journalism aren’t quite over, yet, in New Zealand.

The Dom post has used the Official Information Act to find out how many school staff received ACC funded treatment following an assault at school and put that together with Ministry of Education figures for 2008, to reveal that at least 777 teachers were assaulted whilst at work during 2008/9 (that’s without the figures for non-treatment assaults in 2009):

“Hundreds of teachers have received ACC-funded treatment after being assaulted at school.

Principals are shocked by the figure and are demanding immediate action to make schools safer

Some school staff now fear breaking up fights in case pupils have weapons, and others refuse to do lunchtime duty alone.

A teacher injured during a school attack says that staff will always be at risk from “nutters”.

Figures issued to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act show that 442 teachers needed ACC-funded treatment after assaults at school during 2008 and 2009, costing about $413,000.

Latest Education Ministry figures show there were a further 335 pupil assaults on teachers in 2008 that did not require ACC-funded treatment.

The most expensive individual claim was for a 2008 assault, worth about $124,000. ACC refused to provide details about the incident.

The two largest assault claims last year were about $40,000 and $45,000.

A secondary school teacher seriously injured in a classroom attack last year fears he will never make a full recovery. He has spinal injuries, suffers constant pain and tires easily.”

We suspect that this teacher may be the one who was stabbed in the back whilst teaching at Avondale College in March 2009 (see link)

“I am able to work only part-time hours because of the injury I sustained to my spinal cord. I have a pronounced limp in the leg that was paralysed and my neurosurgeon cannot say for sure that I will ever make a full recovery. Some situations still trigger flashbacks of the incident.

“As an avid sportsman, my lifestyle has had to undergo many changes which I am having trouble accepting.

“I think anyone in a job that fronts the public is at risk from the nutters that exist in our society, people who lack awareness of the damage they can inflict or lack conscience.”

The report’s figures don’t go back far enough to include Lois Dear who was battered to death and sexually assaulted in her classroom in 2006 (link)

The Post Primary Teachers Association, a union representing about 18,000 teachers and principals, says that unless classrooms are made safer, teachers will leave the profession.

“It is a serious issue and I can’t see the problem going away, but there are no easy answers,” spokeswoman Jill Gray said.

Solutions are rarely easy but that doesn’t mean they can’t, or shouldn’t, be tackled. 

“Some teachers were too scared to do lunchtime duty alone and had resorted to supervising in pairs.

“I find it very sad that it has come to this, but hopefully these figures really highlight the issue and get some action started…”

How long has this been a problem for? Search for our posts under the tag School Violence.

A golden opporunity to so something about bad behaviour in schools was passed up on at the Behaviour Summit in March 2009. Some of you may remember that we said in September:

“At the end of the summit a number of priorities for action were agreed on:

  • Ownership of the issue and improve collaboration between families, communities, government agencies and schools.
  • Early intervention – working with children in the early stages of life and in the first stages of things going wrong in their lives.
  • Initial teacher education and sustained teacher professional development to provide the skills required to manage extreme behaviour.
  • Stronger emphasis on getting it right for Maori students.
  • More support for successful evidence based programmes such as Incredible Years.
  • Share the evidence about what works.

Earlier this month (September) the Minister of Education – Ann Tolley announced that the Taumata’s cross-sector planning group had handed her a draft Behaviour and Learning Action plan and that she was discussing it with them. She said “The potential impact is great – for kids, families, teachers and our communities. The Plan is based on better use of current funding and re-aligns current funding and services to evidence of what works.”

So, it’s now five months after the summit and the plan has still to get any further than the discussion stage.

Meanwhile acts of school violence have been continuing, culminating in two school invasions this week – the ultimate disruptive classroom behaviour. What a pity that the issue of bullying – both in schools and in the wider community – seemed to have been dismissed during the summit. A golden opportunity has slipped away and the issue seems to be destined to be skirted around ad nasuem.”

Who’d be a teacher in NZ?

Today’s posts – click here