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Classroom Case

by msecadm4921

Teachers are stating that radical measures need to be taken to attract staff being deterred by a “culture of accepted violence” in classrooms. By Craig Swallow, Managing Director, Connexion2 Limited.

Violence and disruption is now one of the most commonly cited reasons for teachers leaving the profession. While physical assaults can result in teachers retiring on ill-health grounds, verbal abuse in the classroom and school corridors can wear down those with even the hardest resolve. From a financial perspective, the cost of high staff turnover, sickness and early retirement is calculated in Scotland alone at £43 million a year.
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Violence against teachers has reached the rate of one assault every seven minutes in some schools. The problem has become so shocking in many inner-city schools that some teachers are stating that they should be paid danger money to work in these environments. However, abuse is not just confined to inner cities. A survey of 300 schools in the north west of England recorded 964 incidents of abuse against teachers over a two-week period. The survey from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which took place over 10 working days in January, was conducted in 304 primary, secondary and special schools. Among nearly 1,000 incidents were 126 physical assaults, 62 sexual insults or threats and nine cases of racist verbal abuse. In one incident a teacher was stabbed in the neck with a compass.
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Financial cost
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There are very sound business as well as moral reasons why employers should effectively manage any threat of teacher abuse. Even when staff are not physically harmed, repeated occurrences of swearing, threats, racial abuse and other forms of verbal abuse can lead to depression, stress, reduced morale, absenteeism and reduced productivity. Teachers who have been victims of verbal abuse, stated that they have suffered a range of symptoms including crying spells, feelings of unworthiness, lack of direction and motivation, fatigue, irritability, difficulty in sleeping and eating disorders. It is anticipated that the financial cost of physical and verbal abuse in schools now reaches hundreds of millions of pounds each year. In cases where teachers seek redress through the courts, awards often reach six figure sums. The largest recorded payout, awarded to Jan Howell in 2001, was £254,000.
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Unions demand that all teachers, as a matter of course, should report abuse to the headteacher and demand that appropriate action be taken against the perpetrators. However, in incidents of verbal abuse against teachers, which often comes from parents as well as pupils, headteachers and local authorities are often held back from taking legal action, as it is difficult to find the necessary evidence to corroborate the teacher’s statement.
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On the other side of the coin, false accusations of sexual and physical abuse against teachers by pupils are also increasing. It has to be every teacher’s worse nightmare. Often when legal charges are brought against a teacher he or she is found innocent. By the time a "not guilty" verdict has been announced the damage has been done. Their reputation is ruined, they rarely return to the profession and are often broken by the trauma of the experience to which they have been subjected. Even if no charges are laid, teachers are more often than not suspended from work, and assumed guilty until proven innocent.
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The time has come when an innovative approach to these problems must be used to safeguard teachers against abuse. It is not only important for schools and local authorities to adopt a zero tolerance against physical and verbal abuse but they must also have a means of recording such incidents. By adopting new technology authorities will not only have the necessary evidence to act against abusers but will also be able to protect teachers from false accusations.
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Identicom
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Identicom looks like a normal ID holder, but is equipped with mobile phone technology. Identicom not only enables teachers to covertly raise an alarm if threatened, but also allows a third party to listen to what is happening and record events whatever the distance. Conversations can also be monitored and recorded at a central location and a message sent to a senior member of staff advising them of any trouble. The device includes a lanyard attachment that enables it to be worn around the neck as a standard ID and hides a ‘rip alarm’ function, which is triggered if the unit is forcibly removed from the wearer. Identicom is flexible enough to be configured in a number of ways, thereby allowing an employer to adopt the device without the need to significantly change or alter current working practices.
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The government is already trialling Identicom in the NHS as one of a number of initiatives being developed by NHS Security Management Services to protect those who work or use the NHS. With the number of assaults on teachers having increased five-fold between 1998 and 2002, there is an now a financial and morale case for such innovative technology to also be used in schools.

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