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Troubled Pupils are Kicking and Punching Teachers

Irish Independent, March 02 2011 by John Walshe Education Editor

KICKING, punching, and screaming. These are just some of the problems teachers are facing every day with troubled pupils at disadvantaged primary schools.

A study has found that teachers often feel helpless, with one admitting she often cries with frustration.

One teacher described a disruptive pupil who could not sit down.

"She would scream and shout, push children out of the way and she would hit children," the report said.

"And if you tried to remove her, she would scream and she would kick. It was very distressing for her, for us to have to physically remove her from the room, and then it was incredibly distressing for the rest of the class."

Another described a young boy who had been violent to children and adults.

"Numerous teachers I'd say at this stage have gotten kicked and punched when he lashes out".

A third teacher admitted that "some days, I went home and cried, because I was just so exhausted and frustrated."

The report said that frequently teachers were faced with having to physically remove a child from the room, due to behaviour considered to be dangerous to the child and to other children in the class.

"The daily incidence of low level problem, class behaviours, coupled with occasionally but highly disruptive physical aggression from some pupils, were reported to have a negative effect upon teachers."

Attention-seeking behaviours required a great deal of time to address, disrupted learning plans and the learning opportunities of other students. But they were compounded by the occurrence of extremely challenging behaviours, such as physical and verbal aggression from students.

The study, which looks at how teachers can improve classroom management, said that many teachers were reluctant to ask colleagues for advice on managing disruptive behaviour "for fear of being judged as incapable, or being seen as less than competent".

It is the first study of its kind in Europe into the innovative "Incredible Years" programme and was carried out in 11 schools in the Limerick area by a team headed by Dr Sinead McGilloway from NUI Maynooth.

She said that Irish classrooms had seen a steady increase in behavioural issues in recent years. Without adequate intervention at the earliest possible stage, these could lead to academic failure, early school leaving and a cycle of anti-social behaviour that could continue through to adolescence and adulthood.

The teachers reported that teacher classroom management training had led to an improvement in classroom atmosphere, a reduction in disruptive behaviour and they also felt empowered to better manage their classes at a critical point in the education system, said Dr McGilloway.