Roughly half of primary schoolteachers target of physical aggression in classroom, survey finds

INTO says findings highlight issue of aggression in schools, particularly in special needs settings

Around half of primary schoolteachers have been the targets of physical aggression in the classroom over the past year, with the issue a particular concern in special needs settings, a survey conducted by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) reports.

The union says the findings highlight the lack of adequate therapeutic and mental health supports for pupils and the need for the additional training of teachers.

The research is based on the experiences of the 440 union members, more than half of whom worked in special schools or mainstream schools with a special class.

It found that while 58 per cent of the teachers generally had been subjected to physical aggression, the figure was 96 per cent among those working in special schools and 61 per cent in mainstream schools with a special class.


Half of the teachers with direct experience of aggression suffered physical injuries, with 41 per cent of those requiring medical attention.

“The survey sets out the stark reality of working life for many of our members, with some missing time out of school to recover from their injuries,” said INTO general secretary John Boyle.

“Our members know it is not the fault of any particular child, but the consequence of a lack of wrap around services for our pupils in most need.

“We are calling for education and health authorities to address the root causes of physical aggression in schools, which we believe is directly linked to the current shortfalls in children’s mental health and therapeutic services,” he said.

The survey found that just a small number, 4.7 per cent, of the incidents are reported to the Health and Safety Authority despite 11 per cent of those impacted missing three or more days of work.

The union cites responses from individual members who said they were subjected to biting and scratching, had suffered a broken finger during an assault and had to cope with aggressive behaviour on an almost daily basis.

Some of those affected, particularly teachers who experienced aggression on a regular basis, suggested the issue had the potential to affect their mental health.

A number called for better supports both for the pupils and themselves.

In addition to improved mental health services, the union says better guidelines should be provided to school staff in relation to dealing with aggression directed towards them.

The School Inclusion Model, a programme piloted over five years and designed to deliver supports to students with additional care needs, should also be fully rolled out, it said.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times