Government must take action on violence to protect pupils and teachers – unions

The Government must take action to tackle youth violence to ensure teachers and pupils are safe in school, education union leaders have urged.

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a child and two adults were injured in an incident at The Birley Academy in South Yorkshire on Wednesday.

It comes just a week after two teachers and a pupil were stabbed at Amman Valley School in Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), the largest education union in the UK, said: “This is another shocking incident happening on school premises.

“Violence has no place in our schools and colleges. Everyone in school – staff, students, teachers, and support staff – should feel and be safe.

“Government needs to recognise the scale of the problem and adopt a public health approach to tackling youth violence as did Scotland in the 90s.

“This should also include urgent reinvesting in the youth services and centres that young people once relied upon.”

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “This will be a worrying and traumatic event for staff and pupils and it is important that support is provided to all those who have been affected.

“This latest incident provides a further reminder of the need for robust action to be taken to keep our schools, pupils and teachers safe.”

National Education Union (NEU) annual conference
Daniel Kebede, the general secretary of the National Education Union, said violence had ‘no place’ in schools and colleges (James Manning/PA)

Assaults involving weapons remain rare in UK schools, but unions have warned of worse behaviour and violence among pupils in recent years.

A Government survey on behaviour, released just last week, found that just 39% of pupils in England said they had felt safe at school every day.

The proportion of school leaders and teachers who said their school was frequently “calm and orderly” had also fallen, according to research by the Department for Education (DfE).

The figures were published after teachers Fiona Elias and Liz Hopkin were injured in an alleged knife attack by a girl at a school in Wales last week.

Tom Bennett, school behaviour advisor to the DfE, told the PA news agency that behaviour is “a big problem in many schools” and teachers and children need to know their workplace is “safe and calm”.

He said: “Extreme violence is the tip of the iceberg, and while uncommon, demonstrates what can happen in big institutions that serve the whole of the community.

“Like any institution, schools are entitled to run their cultures in the way that makes it most likely everyone will thrive in peace.”

But he added “simple conclusions” should not be drawn from unusual events.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said she was “disturbed” to hear about the incident at Birley Academy.

She said: “We’re in touch with the school and my thoughts are with those injured and all the school community affected by this frightening situation.”

In July last year, maths teacher Jamie Sansom was stabbed by a 15-year-old boy in a school corridor at Tewkesbury Academy in Gloucestershire. The teenager was sent to youth detention for 14 months for the attack.

Teacher Ann Maguire, 61, was stabbed to death by 15-year-old Will Cornick as she taught a Spanish class at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds in April 2014. Cornick was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 20 years.

A Government spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important than the safety of children, and our thoughts are with all those affected by the shocking incident in Sheffield today.

“To tackle the root causes of violence, we are funding 20 Violence Reduction Units across England and Wales which have reached over 271,000 vulnerable young people in their fourth year of funding alone, through early intervention programmes to help protect them from serious violence.

“We’ve also providing £200 million over ten years to establish the Youth Endowment Fund to improve knowledge about what works to tackle serious violence and we’re investing over £50 million for specialist support in mainstream and alternative provision schools in areas where serious violence most impacts children.”