A five year-old school pupil assaulted three teachers during an incident in which the other students had to be moved to the corridor for their own safety, a local teacher conference has heard.
Violence in the classroom has been described as a daily risk, with one of the main teaching unions in Northern Ireland saying they are contacted every week by teachers concerned with the issue.
The true scale of the problem is not known to the public because of the “sensitivity of issues often involved”, Stephen McCord, President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, told its annual conference in on Friday.
“The public isn’t hearing about all these incidents, but if a shop worker or a clerical officer was subject to this there would be an outcry,” he said.
“Schools and teachers don’t publicise incidents because of the sensitivity of issues often involved – these are children, often they have special educational needs – so only the very worst cases make it into the public domain.
“But be under no illusion, violence in the classroom is a daily risk and an all too common occurrence for many teachers. Every week we are contacted by teachers about this.”
More funding is needed to train teachers how to deal with violent and disruptive pupils, said Mr McCord at the conference in Newcastle.
He said bigger class sizes and a growing number of children requiring special attention are factors contributing to the problem and called for new teachers especially to be provided with training opportunities.
“If our teachers are to be expected to cope they must have adequate support and training,” he said. “The Department of Education must provide increased opportunities for newly qualified teachers and those in their early professional development to attend training courses in areas including special educational needs and behaviour management.
“Teachers have the same rights as every other employee to work in a safe environment and it is a callous neglect on the part of the employing authorities to send a teacher into a situation where their personal safety is at risk.”
The conference also heard concerns about a higher retirement age, school league tables and the role of teachers in supporting pupils with mental illnesses.