Unions defend discipline at Camden schools after 300 exclusions for violence
A teaching union has defended discipline in Camden’s schools as new figures reveal there have been nearly 300 exclusions because of violence against teachers and pupils in a year.
Opposition councillors warned the figures were symptomatic of a general erosion of respect in society and called on the Town Hall to offer more support to schools.
In the last academic year, 58 primary school pupils were excluded, with violence against pupils cited in 31 cases and violence against staff in 28, although more than one reason can be given for a suspension.
Fighting among students is by far the biggest cause of expulsions in secondary schools, accounting for 230 out of the total 300 suspensions, according to figures obtained by the Ham&High under the Freedom of Information Act.
Andrew Baisley, branch secretary for Camden NUT, the biggest teaching union, said most teachers injured in the classroom are peacemakers intervening to stop pupil brawls.
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He said: “This violence is a concern. The vast majority are times in which a teacher gets hurt when they are breaking up a fight between pupils.
“In my experience the examples of violence aren’t extreme. These are not examples of students picking up chairs and hurling them across the room at their teacher.”
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Mr Baisley warned that as education cuts begin to bite these figures could rise, as schools do not have the funds to pay for special educational needs programmes to help pupils who resort to abusive behaviour.
“In Camden, a lot of money has been spent on special needs education and interventions focused on these pupils so behaviour is generally good,” he said.
“But with cuts these services are the first to be jettisoned. In Camden, the primary special needs behaviour outreach services has been cut in half.
“If these numbers increase, then clearly that ought to be ringing alarm bells.”
Keith Moffitt, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Camden Council, said: “There seems to be a worrying trend in society with people thinking it is acceptable to exhibit violent behaviour. Twenty years ago that wouldn’t have happened.
“Teachers are supposed to be in a position of authority. Once pupils think it is okay to have no respect for their teachers and be violent, that is a problem for society generally.”
A council spokesman said Camden’s figures were low compared to other boroughs.
He said: “Camden’s secondary schools have high expectations of behaviour and clear codes of conduct for their pupils.
“Schools work with each other and the council to support pupils and their families, using exclusion as one of a range of ways to ensure there are clear boundaries.”