8 May 2019

Rising rates of violence against teachers - survey

6:53 am on 8 May 2019

A growing number of teachers are dealing with violence and threats of violence at school, a survey of primary school principals and deputies around the country has found.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey was commissioned by the teachers' union NZEI and carried out over three years by an Australian Associate Professor of psychology, Phil Riley.

More than 30 percent of school leaders, who took part in the voluntary survey, said they had been subjected to physical violence, mostly from students.

But a small percentage of the reported attacks - nearly 4 percent - were by parents.

Women reported more threats and violence than their male colleagues - 48 percent said they had been physically attacked last year.

NZEI said the situation was worse in special schools where 78 percent of school leaders had been punched, kicked or otherwise hurt by children, trying to cope with a range of problems and frustrations.

Union president Lynda Stuart said in most cases the violence involved children harmed by meth, foetal alcohol syndrome, and other problems.

"The children aren't to blame, this is their life, but they come to school with some frustrations or challenging behaviours, and then actually lash out or verbally speak out."

Ms Stuart said schools urgently needed more psychologists, speech therapists and other specialist support to manage troubled children, on a one-on-one basis.