Enfield Council drawing up new policy on school staff safety after rise in attacks

The majority of incidents are taking place in special schools or primary schools, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Photo by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash

Enfield Council will be introducing a new policy to help support school staff following a “substantial rise” in reports of violence and aggression by pupils.

During a children and young person’s scrutiny panel at Enfield Civic Centre yesterday (Tuesday 11th) councillors were presented with year-on-year data which showed a rise in incidents of biting, “non-visible” injuries, and threatening behaviour or verbal abuse. 

Comparing four months from 2022 to the same period in 2023, incidents of biting rose from 28 to 38, non-visible injuries went from 15 to 56 and non-physical attacks rose from from zero to eight. 

The council’s report acknowledged the increase in non-visible injuries, stating they were incidents that warranted reporting. 

One explanation for the rise was put down to “increased awareness and increased reporting” but it was not assumed this was the only reason. 

Since 2022 figures have been “analysed in greater depth” and it was found the majority of incidents took place in special schools or primary schools. 

The report said the “substantial increase” could be a consequence of the Covid-19 lockdown as children experienced a “lack of social interaction” and although the pandemic had now passed the “impact” was still being felt. 

In a bid to tackle the issue, last September a “task and finish” group was formed consisting of stakeholders including headteachers, unions, and council officers.

A policy tackling violence and aggression against school staff has since been drawn up and is currently being revised. The policy’s aim is to prevent and minimise the risk of, and manage and respond to, work-related violence or aggression against school staff.

The report stated that Enfield’s schools and trade unions were “pleased” with the document.

A survey for staff was produced and circulated to see how they felt about the issues and their knowledge around reporting and getting support. 

Peter Nathan, the council’s director of education, said they’d received over 1,000 responses, mostly from primary schools, with around a quarter from secondary. He said: “That’s a considerable amount, and will give us an indication of where the issues lie.”

His first impression was “roughly two-thirds” related to children with special needs and 10% to parents. He added “most teachers” seemed well supported. 

A need for de-escalating training was another result from the survey with schools realising more staff needed training “more effectively”. 

Sarah Fryer, head of schools personnel, said of the survey responses that “nearly a third” hadn’t experienced any issues and felt supported.

In terms of very serious issues which are reported to the Health and Safety Executive, the report said over the last five years there had only been eleven incidents in Enfield, averaging two a year. Peter reiterated these types of incidents were “quite rare”. 

Eight took place in special schools and three were in a mainstream primary setting. 

Peter added that a draft policy would shortly be issued to schools to get comments and feedback.

Posters are also being produced for schools to remind staff what the procedure is should they encounter violent or aggressive behaviour. 

Sarah said the government’s Department for Education was also “looking at bringing out some harassment and bullying guidance” for school staff which it was hoped would “tie together” with the council’s new policy.

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