Nearly 25% of UK teachers say they are physically attacked by pupils at least once a week, a study by the NASUWT union has found. The report found that 89% have suffered physical or verbal abuse in the past year, and 49% say that at their school it is considered part of the job. The NASUWT also warned that pupils as young as 11 are harassing teachers by taking “upskirting” pictures; and that teachers are being subjected to “aggressive contact” from parents, as a result of schools giving out their email addresses. (The Week, 27 April 2019)
Years ago, as an employer in a small business, I was invited by the head teacher at the secondary school next door to our factory ( in a poor, mainly black, neighborhood) to talk to the older, teenage children about employment and what to expect when they started work. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out a disaster, which I have never forgotten. The kids, all about 16, were out of control, talking over me, fighting, throwing things at one another, and muttering racial epithets at me before I had finished my first sentence. The teacher was unable to quieten the main disrupters at the back of the classroom, and, poor man, seemed to have no means of instilling discipline. He was essentially a “babysitter”, some of whose charges were brawnier and more street-wise than he was. Two or three kids, at the front of the class, listened and asked questions, but I could see that they were the object of derision as far as the bullies at the back were concerned.
One can’t generalise from one South London school or from a brief experience, but one thing seemed certain at the time – the attitude of indifference and disrespect was brought from mainly single- parent homes and manifested itself in the classroom. And nothing seems to have changed in nearly fifty years. This can’t be addressed by reparations for slavery. That I felt humiliated while trying to offer well-meant advice didn’t matter; I wasn’t physically assaulted. But what to do about the bullying and indifference to schooling and authority is/was a different matter. In this case Epicurean courtesy and respect did not work. What will? You can lead a horse to water……….