October 1, 2008

Call to Curb Violent Schoolkids


URGENT action is needed to stem pupil violence, which has led to a reduction in classroom activities and a decline in teachers' health, a new survey says.

Unions representing both primary and secondary school teachers tried yesterday to tackle concerns about "gangsta-style" behaviour in classrooms, which has included pupils bringing weapons, attacking teachers, taking drugs, wrecking furniture and abusing other children.

Primary teachers have been given new guidelines for dealing with disruptive pupils, as a survey released by the Post Primary Teachers Association shows 12 per cent of boys and 5 per cent of girls in Wellington high schools exhibit "severely disruptive behaviour".

More than 50 per cent of teachers who responded to the PPTA's Hutt Valley and Wellington branch survey of 28 high schools said bad behaviour meant they limited classroom activities.

The behaviour included physical attacks on other pupils, damage to property, verbal or physical abuse of other pupils or teachers, inappropriate language, shouting and sexual comments.

Other complaints from teachers included:

* 41 per cent said the behaviour made them anxious or wary.

* 28 per cent said their general health had suffered.

* 32 per cent said it undermined their confidence.

* 9 per cent said they were frightened of pupils.

Mixed schools had the highest disruption rates, with boys' behaviour worse than girls'. Behaviour was worse in low-decile schools.

The PPTA is calling for more funding for programmes dealing with problem pupils.

Hutt Valley regional executive member Martin Henry said violence was preventing teachers from doing their job. "We have to address this now because if we wait we've got too many students who are going to have their education disrupted."

The Education Ministry would not comment on the report because it had not seen a copy. But the ministry's schools and student support senior manager, Jim Greening, said there were options for schools, including resource teachers and a crisis response fund.

The primary teachers' union, the NZ Educational Institute, issued new guidelines yesterday for dealing with disruptive pupils, which include listing teachers' rights and responsibilities and where they can find help.

NZEI executive member Frances Guy said the guidelines had been drawn up from a health and safety perspective.

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