Tiny terrors: Reception age kids expelled for attacks on teachers in Cumbria

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CHILDREN as young as four are among those excluded from schools across Cumbria after launching physical assaults on teachers, shocking new figures show.

Last year alone, the county's headteachers were forced to ban 159 youngsters from the classroom for a fixed period for violence towards an adult.

Incidents involving four more youngsters were deemed so serious they were expelled for good.

Now teaching union chiefs say they have serious concerns about the rocketing number of occasions in which their staff have been attacked, as morale within schools plummets.

No headteacher wants to exclude a pupil, but in these cases it is usually the only option

Graham Frost, of the National Association of Headteachers in Cumbria, said severe cuts in funding for school support services - including specialist teachers and educational psychologists - could propel the number of exclusions even higher in the future.

"Headteachers have a duty of care to their pupils, but also to their staff as well," he added.

"Most will have exhausted all other options available before issuing an exclusion but sometimes it can't be avoided.

"County-wide, we have had significant financial constraints to the education support grant and it's a real concern that we don't have the same level of support in schools now.

"It's not hard to see the correlation between a rise in difficulties as more resources are withdrawn."

Information uncovered by CN Group using Freedom of Information legislation found at least 60 primary school pupils were given fixed term exclusions for violence towards an adult in local authority controlled classrooms during the 2016/17 year, including 16 five and six-year-olds.

For school years 7 to 11 over the same period, at least a further 63 were excluded temporarily - with 49 teacher assaults in Allerdale the most for any single district in Cumbria, followed by 45 in Carlisle.

The shocking data also shows last year saw two primary and two secondary school pupils expelled permanently for violence towards an adult during the school day.

Since 2011, at least seven reception age children have attacked their teacher in Cumbria, at least 17 year 1s, aged five and six, and at least 25 youngsters in year 2 - those aged between six and seven.

Teacher Chris Brooksbank, the county's NUT secretary of the National Education Union, said the reasons behind attacks on teachers were many and varied - but that sadly incidents seemed to be increasing in number.

More common examples include very young children who have not yet acquired the social skills to manage in a class of up to 30 other children and teenagers suffering from exam stress, he explained.

"It is a real issue, Mr Brooksbank added.

"Sometimes it's very young kids who have not developed the skills they need to cope in a class of other children and a teacher.

"In other cases it is the result of pressure from exams. Schools are under a lot of pressure to get children to achieve academically, and this can result in conflict if a teacher is saying 'you need to do this' and the child is saying 'I can't'.

"These incidents do put a lot of pressure on staff and their families as well as on the children themselves."

Mr Brooksbank said support was available for NUT members who fell victim to an attack from a pupil.

But he went on:"No headteacher wants to exclude a pupil, but in these cases it is usually the only option and it can even allow access to support which is badly needed but only there in extreme circumstances."

The districts with the most fixed term school exclusions in the last five years:

Carlisle....189

Allerdale....134

Furness....126

South Lakeland....95

Copeland....64

Eden....24

A last resort: Headteachers have final say over exclusions

HEADTEACHERS have the final say on whether to exclude a child, the county's NAHT representative said.

Graham Frost said every headteacher would consider the individual circumstances of an incident before deciding upon the best course of action.

He added: "Any exclusion is at the discretion of the headteacher but they will always follow key guidance and the safety angle is always very high up when making a decision."

Schools caught in a financial vice as Educational Service Grant abolished

HEADTEACHERS across Cumbria warned of an impending financial crisis in the classroom following the abolition of a crucial funding stream this month.

The Educational Service Grant was axed by the government from September leaving schools nationwide facing a 'significant funding shortfall'.

The grant was used by councils to pay for a variety of things in schools, such as help for special needs pupils, school improvement and to plan for school places.

Its absence, warned Brampton headteacher Chris McAree in February, would impact upon the front line of schools across Cumbria.

"Schools across the country are all seeing their finances squeezed," he said.

"With the abolition of the Education Services Grant from September, many schools are having to look again at staffing levels as they have made savings elsewhere over the last few years.

"There is only so much that can be trimmed from other budgets."

Headteachers told to 'buy back' school nurse services last year

SCHOOL nurses were axed from schools in Cumbria earlier this year following drastic cuts to the county's public health budget.

The traditional role of the school nurse, which equipped schools with on site health screening as well as advice on emotional health, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, was withdrawn in March prompting an outcry among teaching staff across the area.

Instead, headteachers were told to 'buy back' elements of the service using funds from their education budgets.

They branded the move unaffordable, claiming it was therefore 'unsafe' and 'detrimental' to children.

Council chiefs claimed the service was replaced with public health and wellbeing nurses to help signpost school staff towards help from external agencies.

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