UK: Scapegoating teachers and other workers will not solve violent crime

published 3 April 2019 updated 3 April 2019

Commenting on the Downing Street Summit on violent crime, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has reaffirmed that violent crime involving young people is a complex issue which will not be resolved by putting additional pressures and responsibilities on educators.

Managing pupil behaviour

“All professionals involved with children and young people are well aware of their responsibilities for safeguarding their health and welfare,” stressed National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) General Secretary Chris Keates.

“Violent crime involving young people, of course, needs to be taken seriously and appropriate strategies considered. However, this is a complex issue which will not be resolved by putting additional pressures and responsibilities on teachers and head teachers or indeed others,” she explained.

Adding that “it is concerning that a narrative appears to be developing whereby schools excluding pupils are potentially being scapegoated as being part of the problem, with exclusion being cited as a reason for pupils becoming involved in knife crime and gangs,” she pointed out that “schools exclude as a last resort and it should be remembered that exclusions in too many instances are because pupils have brought offensive weapons on site or have engaged in violence against staff and other pupils”.

“Teachers do a great job on a daily basis of managing the behaviour of pupils and maintaining high standards of behaviour, but this has become increasingly difficult,” she insisted, noting that “there have been savage cuts by Government to local authority funding which has resulted in either the severe reduction or the disappearance altogether of specialist external support, including appropriate referral units on which schools have been able in the past to rely”.

“In addition, in many areas the pressure on schools to take pupils with serious behaviour issues, who should be in specialist provision, has increased,” she said.

Teachers and students are entitled to teach and learn in safe environments

Keates went on to highlighting that “teachers are entitled to teach and pupils are entitled to learn in an environment free from violence and disruption. If exclusion is necessary to achieve this, then schools must be free to exercise their right to exclude. It’s the responsibility of Government to ensure there is appropriate provision for excluded pupils.”

“If the causes of violence involving young people are to be examined at the Summit today, then the contribution government social, economic and education policies make must be on the table for consideration,” she stressed.

She concluded by emphasising that “threatening staff such as teachers, who already have a difficult and challenging job, that they will be held accountable for failing to spot any warning signs of violent crime is an unacceptable response and will simply add to the myriad of government-driven factors which are causing teachers to leave the profession and deterring potential recruits from applying.”