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Wednesday 23 July 2014

Irish husband of slain teacher Ann Maguire grieves as British teachers reveal daily raft of threats

Published 30/04/2014|07:49

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Ann Maguire's husband Don leaves her family home in Leeds. Picture: Andrew McCaren/
Ann Maguire's husband Don leaves her family home in Leeds. Picture: Andrew McCaren/

This is the grieving Irish husband of slain school teacher Ann Maguire.

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Don Maguire (62), a landscape gardener, is pictured here leaving the couple's home in Leeds, Britain yesterday.

Mrs Maguire (61) was weeks away from retiring when she was killed during a Spanish class on Monday.

She would have taught her last lesson in July before retiring in September.

The couple had been married for 37 years. They had raised two successful daughters, Kerry, 32, a trainee osteopath, and Emma, 30, who trained at the Royal Ballet School and has been a soloist of the Royal Ballet since 2011.

Mrs Maguire's killing has highlighted the risks inner city teachers in the UK take every day dealing with threats of violence in the classroom.

Her death is thought to be the first time a teacher has been fatally stabbed in a British classroom, and the first killing of a teacher in a school since the 1996 Dunblane massacre.

But the trauma suffered by many in the profession is shown in shocking personal accounts by teachers, often speaking on condition of anonymity.

Emma, a teaching assistant at a pupil referral unit in the West Midlands, has been “punched, kicked, sworn at, insulted, head butted, scratched, screamed at, bitten and had things thrown at me, most notably a table in my first week!” She copes with verbal abuse from pupils by imagining she is “surrounded by an invisible impenetrable barrier”. Although it’s “not an easy job” it is “highly rewarding” but having “a thick skin is a definite advantage.”

Alan Newland, a former headteacher in London, recalls an occasion where a 10-year-old boy brought a large penknife into school: “It came as a bit of shock because it had never happened before, we weren’t expecting it. I didn’t have a policy on kids bringing knives into school.”

He said: “He was threatening people with it. He was doing it in a jokey way but nevertheless the kid had a bit of a volatile background and when I took the knife from him his parents came in and demanded it back.”

Mr Newland said: “Where I’ve had issues with the threat of violence is not with kids but from the parents... I’ve had parents literally say to me ‘you do that and I’m going to fucking beat you to a pulp’ and I had no doubt that actually on the occasions that it happened these people were barely on the edge of self-control.”

A teacher from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, spoke of being repeatedly attacked. “This pupil had been trying to bite me, slap people, hit me with furniture, tried to choke me and then it escalated. I was hit in the leg with a missile and then the head.” He added: “I believe the child who attacked me should have been given one-to-one teaching, but there isn't the money for it; therefore I got hurt.”

Another teacher, from a school in Waltham Forest, London, said: “A student turned up to a practical lab session late, drunk and belligerent, put his foot in the door so I couldn't shut it, argued with the lab technician who tried to get him to leave, and attempted to hit security when they came to remove him.”

And a woman teaching at a primary school in the north of England described how she became “a hollow shell, wracked with lines and grey hairs and perpetual knots in my stomach” due to the presence of a boy who ‘ruled the classroom’ and made her 'feel scared'.”

One former teacher was forced out of the profession. “It started with an assault. It was quite a bad one, bruising and feeling rather shaken. The pupil had a history of aggressive behaviour and the rest. I reported it, as well as to the police. That was the start. The whole senior management team machinery turned on me. I was given a dressing down and from that point on it all started to go wrong... I was an ex-serviceman, confident and assertive. From the day the senior management team betrayed my trust all of that evaporated.”

He added: “More assaults followed. Once pupils sense you have been ‘breached’ they home in.”

He left the profession and is now retraining for a career in law. “My advice to those thinking of teaching - don’t.”

Independent News Service

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