Student attacks on WA teachers increase

A teachers' union has expressed concern about the growing number of students attacking staff at West Australian public schools.

Public school teachers in Western Australia have been headbutted, punched, kicked and slapped by pupils, some of whom are in primary school, figures released by the Education Department reveal.

The statistics show that in the first three months of this year there were 149 assaults - a 38 per cent increase on the same time last year - and at least 90 of them were committed by primary school students.

State School Teachers' Union president Pat Byrne said she was concerned about the increase in violence, adding staff had the right to go to work without the threat of attack from students.

"While in many instances, our members have not wanted to report incidents out of concern for their students' future education prospects, teachers and leaders are expressing concerns for their safety and that of other students," she said.

Ms Byrne claimed the increase in violence followed government cuts, which forced some schools to cancel programs targeted at students at risk.

"We've seen behaviour management programs cut, and fewer staff in schools who are available to engage with at-risk students before their behaviour escalates into violence," she said.

Education Minister Peter Collier said services, including psychology and chaplaincy, were more important than ever, but described the increased violence as relatively small.

"This is also only the second year of online reporting in the 'student assault against teacher' category," he said.

"More years are needed before establishing a baseline of a normal number of incidents.

"Having said that, violence against anyone in our schools is unacceptable."

This year, the state government opened 13 engagement centres to support students with complex behavioural and attendance issues.

A Learning Academy is also available for the most at-risk and disengaged students, Mr Collier said.

Education Department director general Sharyn O'Neill said the majority of incidents were at the lower end of the scale and many involved younger children lashing out during a tantrum.

"But the nine reported incidents where staff have been kicked, punched and even headbutted are appalling and my sympathies go to any staff member who has experienced this ordeal," she said.

"I back them completely to call police in these situations and press charges when appropriate."

Source AAP

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