Teachers in Lewisham are the most likely in London to report being assaulted in the classroom, with 634 attacks reported over the last five years, according to data released to The Evening Standard under the Freedom of Information Act.
However, Martin Powell-Davies, branch secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Lewisham, said: “Figures are so high in our borough because we strongly recommend teachers to report any kind of violence, but it’s only a small number of pupils who misbehave”.
The Department for Education figures on violence in schools from summer 2012 showed that primary school children were increasingly being suspended for assaulting teachers and other classmates, while the number of attacks by secondary school pupil’s has fallen.
Poverty has been blamed for the high rate of misbehaviour in Lewisham’s schools. Currently three wards in the borough are in the poorest 10 per cent of London wards, according to London’s Poverty Profile, 2011.
“Problems are getting worse as every year goes by. It’s inevitable to link poverty to social disorder. Lewisham suffers from poverty and schools aren’t given resources to support pupils with special needs. We don’t have enough specialist staff”, said Powell-Davies.
EastLondonLines talked to two teachers in Lewisham who preferred to remain anonymous. The first explained: “Poverty can make school life really difficult for those students; not having branded trainers for PE, wearing hand-me-down uniform or not having a mobile could lead to theft, bullying or anger management issues. However, I’ve never been concerned or feared violence from a student”.
The second teacher said: “low self esteem and low aspirations links directly with misbehaviour”.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, expressed her concern about student violence towards teachers saying that: “The answer is to focus on strategies for prevention, including ensuring that all staff are well trained in defusing and de-escalating difficult situations.”