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Violence in schools: tackling the root of the problem

When I started out on my career as a sociologist, pastoral care within education was at the forefront of my mind. I devised tactics and programmes to help schools and local education authorities help children; before they fell off the proverbial cliff into an ever growing abyss of truancy, delinquency and other self-fulfilling prophecies. Time and again we see political correctness keeping common sense from entering schools and it is leading to tragedy.

Ann Maguire, a teacher of more than 40 years, was stabbed to death by a pupil in front of a class last week. Mrs Maguire was due to retire from her post at Corpus Christi Catholic College in September.

Emma Place, a primary school teacher in Leamington Spa, had her coffee poisoned with bathroom chemicals by two ten-year-old boys a day later. On the Daily Mail, a fellow parent of the Clapham Terrace School was quoted as saying, “I think this one could be strict but their SATS are coming up. It just got out of hand. Clearly a joke that went wrong.” Poisoning is now a joke gone wrong?

These are but two instances of thousands of cases in which adults who have spent years learning to educate, nurture and help our children are verbally and physically abused on a daily basis.

A former senior school teacher from Lincoln says that professionals are “just under pressure to do their job. We want the best for the kids too, even though they don’t see it. So we have to give them a hard time sometimes. Combine that with the fact that you don’t know what’s going on in that child’s life, it could be a fireball.”

Last November the American Psychological Association (APA) released information designed to be used by educators in preventing violence against teachers. Not only does it speak of ways to tackle violent acts on a variety of levels (school, classroom, teacher, student etc), but also the 2005 study by Gottfredson et al. on predictors of violence – it was found that inappropriate behaviour dropped when students perceived there was ‘consistent discipline management’ and teacher’s felt confident in being supported by their own peers and superiors.

So what does this all mean at ground level? Camila Batmanghelidjh points out that punishment doesn’t work, and to an extent, she has a point. It of course depends on why the child is exhibiting deviant behaviour. That’s where the solution is, in finding the root of the problem and tackling it head on, pushing the boundaries and going the extra mile.

Along with an attitude based upon equality, common sense and consistent methods, you show a class of school children hope, and they will give you faith. You show a teacher the support network needed to help their pupils, and you are creating a tower of strength.

For Ann Maguire, a beloved and long serving member of the community, it is too little too late. This cannot be swept under the rug, election looming or not. The system failed both teacher and pupil and we must understand why.

It is not, nor will it ever be acceptable to carry a weapon, anywhere. There needs to be curricula standard lessons on the consequences of violence and violent behaviour. There needs to be openness and understanding within the classrooms and subcultures, an understanding that there are consequences to every action.