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60pc of special needs assistants assaulted in classroom

SPECIAL needs assistants are being assaulted by children on a daily basis.

A new survey reveals that 60pc of staff have been assaulted in the classroom, most of them more than once.

Half the attacks were mild, 12pc required medical attention, while 2pc were serious assaults that resulted in hospital treatment. The assaults listed in the survey included hitting, biting, shoving, attempted strangulation, hair-pulling, scratching, slapping, pushing and throwing objects.

The survey by IMPACT found 90pc of the special needs assistants who were assaulted were attacked more than once, while almost one in five said attacks happened on a daily basis.

A total of 18pc said the attacks happened every week, according to the survey of 1,900 special needs assistants.

IMPACT said it conducted the survey after noticing a major increase in their queries about workplace assaults.

In addition, 43pc said that school management's response was "dismissive".

However, almost none of the special needs assistants – 97pc of whom were women – took sick leave after being attacked.

Delegates at IMPACT's Education Division conference in Kilkenny, representing 10,000 non-teaching staff, called for the introduction of a physical assault scheme, similar to one existing in the health service.

It wants the introduction of a scheme providing health and safety training and procedures to create a safe classroom environment for pupils and staff.

The union also wants hepatitis B vaccines to be offered to staff as some of the serious assaults led to blood injuries.

Dessie Robinson, IMPACT assistant general secretary, said the attitude of most schools was "totally inadequate" and put the safety of staff and pupils at risk.

He said children with special needs had difficulties with anger management, and this was part of the job. But he said schools had a responsibility to put proper risk assessment procedures in place, and support those who are assaulted.

Meanwhile, the education workers have called on the Government to divert money currently paid to fee-paying schools to areas "of greatest need".

Speaking in favour of a motion proposed by IMPACT's VEC branch, Ger Lyons pointed out that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn was "himself a product of Blackrock College".

He said he recently commisioned a report on the country's 55 fee-paying schools, which receive annual state funding worth over €90m.

"But these 55 schools," Mr Lyons said, "bring in a staggering €117m in fees annually. This funds extra teachers and extra-curricular facilities."

In the non fee-paying sector, he said there had been "savage cuts" in areas such as special needs assistants and psychological support for marginalised students.

Teacher conference reports

Irish Independent