The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has expressed concern at the damaging effects of education cutbacks on the capacity to deal with student behaviour issues in schools. The union’s Annual Congress takes place in Kilkenny next week.
Speaking today, TUI General Secretary John MacGabhann said:
‘Teachers are expressing concern at the effect of cutbacks and an apparent lack of will – or ability - by school management to deal with the issue of indiscipline problems in schools.
To be clear, we are not talking about minor incidents or anything else that could be labelled occasional youthful exuberance. We are talking about dangerous behaviour that severely restricts teaching and learning and puts the health and safety of other students and of teachers at risk. It could take the form of verbal abuse, threatening or intimidating behaviour or even, in some cases, incidents of violence towards other students or teachers.
The cutting of teacher numbers, the removal of vital middle-management posts such as year head and the abolition of ex-quota guidance counselling provision to schools have all contributed to a situation that simultaneously makes the occurrence of unacceptable behaviour more likely and the capacity for effective early intervention in schools increasingly difficult.
Too often, an effective intervention is not made in such cases and the student is returned to the classroom where the safety of other students and school staff is further compromised. In effect, where this happens, the interests of the disruptive student are prioritised above the interests of the majority of students and teachers. Everybody loses, not least the disruptive student who may have severe behavioural issues which have not been adequately addressed.
TUI conducted the last large-scale survey around the issue of student behaviour in 2006, which found that 21% of teachers encountered unacceptable physical violence to students by other students in their class in the previous week. 21% of teachers also reported having unacceptable intimidating behaviour directed at them over the same period.
Subsequent to this, the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) was established by the Department of Education & Skills in 2006 to provide support to schools on issues related to behaviour. This was a positive development and its work is valued, but, quite clearly, the school landscape has changed sharply with the austerity cuts of the last six years.
Education cutbacks need to be reversed to allow every student to fulfil their potential. Also, appropriate strategies including fair and balanced sanctions that promote the rights and safety of all members of the school community need to be put in place.’