Better security needed to deal with violent pupils
on 02/10/2012 00:00:00
The National Council for Special Education, which sanctions the staff, said applications for supports for such students is up 23% since 2009 and almost 8,000 of them are in mainstream schools.
Proper staffing levels in special schools are a recommendation of a NCSE report on behaviour that highlights how some students regularly engage in violent behaviour, such as:
* Kicking, punching, and biting teachers or students, resulting in broken fingers and black eyes;
* Breaking classroom furniture or throwing it at staff or other students;
* Bringing knives, scissors, or other weapons to school;
* Breaking glass and using it as a weapon;
* Head-butting and spitting.
The unprovoked and unpredictable outbursts, in addition to serious self-injury and suicide attempts, are limited to 20 or 30 students a year. But the NCSE says inappropriate behaviour is a significant issue in most schools and not just for children with special educational needs.
In some special schools for children with emotional disturbance/behavioural disorder (EBD), pupils have to be restrained for their own safety or to protect other students and staff.
"It is not acceptable for some students to injure, sometimes seriously injure, other students or staff or to disrupt learning," said NCSE chief executive Teresa Griffin. "Neither is it acceptable that the students themselves be expelled, have their attendance reduced or drop out early."
The NCSE says the Department of Education should give all schools clear guidelines on how to deal with violent episodes, including when it is appropriate for teachers or SNAs to use restraint. Its recommendations include having an appropriate security system in classrooms for children with severe EBD, such as two-way radio alarms to allow teachers to alert the principal when violent incidents begin.
Extra training for all teachers on managing challenging behaviour is suggested, and one teacher in every school should undergo specialist training in behaviour management.
The proposals would cost €12m a year but the NCSE says these and early interventions could lead to long-term savings.
The department said it is considering resource, policy, and staffing implications in how it responds to the NCSE report. It published guidelines on supporting students with behavioural difficulties earlier this year.
Teachers' Union of Ireland general secretary John MacGabhann said providing one staff member in each school with a short training period does not go far enough, particularly in large schools in communities worst hit by the recession.
He said cutbacks that have led to bigger classes, fewer year heads, and less guidance counselling are detrimental to promoting good behaviour.