Challenging Behaviour And Aggression In Schools

Challenging behaviour and aggression in schools

A survey for the ATL teachers’ union of 1,250 teachers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland reports that:

  • 40% of teachers have experienced at least one incidence of violence from pupils in the past year.
  • Of those, 77% said they had been pushed, and around half were kicked or had an object thrown at them.
  • 90% had dealt with challenging behaviour, such as swearing or shouting, in the past year.
  • 45% feel that pupil behaviour has worsened over the past two years.

The survey also reports regular verbal abuse of teachers by pupils.

A BBC report on the survey highlights causes of this challenging behaviour as a lack of boundaries at home, emotional and behavioural problems, and mental health issues.

The government states that teachers have greater powers to deal with challenging behaviour, disruptive and violent behaviour. What is important, though, is that school staff are equipped with a good understanding of what is and isn’t permissible in dealing such behaviour as well as with the skills to do so safely and legally.

Key issues to consider include:

Use of reasonable force in schools

Reasonable force can be used to prevent pupils from hurting themselves or others, from damaging property, or from causing disorder. The decision on whether or not to physically intervene is down to the professional judgement of the staff member concerned and should always depend on the individual circumstances. Force can only be used, where necessary, to control or restrain pupils, never as a punishment.

Restrictive Physical Intervention

The scale and nature of any physical intervention must be proportionate to both the behaviour of the individual to be controlled, and the nature of the harm they might cause. Schools should have a policy on the use of Restrictive Physical Intervention which is part of a wider behaviour policy outlining a pro-active approach to promoting positive behaviour.

Schools need to take their own decisions about staff training in this area and some local authorities provide advice and guidance to help them develop an appropriate training programme. Good training in managing aggression and physical intervention in schools will be sensitive to the needs of the pupil and the school environment. Look for training that is medically risk assessed and meets:

  • NHS Protect guidelines in Breakaway and Physical Intervention
  • BILD guidelines on the use of Physical Intervention
  • Institute of Conflict Management guidelines on the use of Physical intervention Techniques
  • Guidelines from the Department of Health and the Department of Education

School staff who have been understanding the causes of aggression, the legal context relating to physical intervention, de-escalation and breakaway and restraint techniques are able to be more confident in dealing with challenging and aggressive behaviour and are better equipped to contribute to a school culture of limiting challenging behaviour and promoting positive behaviour.

It is also important to note that health and safety legislation requires schools to protect their employees from violence and such training is an effective way to contribute towards meeting that requirement.

If you have any questions about how training can help to support the staff in your school, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Related training:

Managing Aggression and Physical Intervention for Schools

Safeguarding and Child Protection

Useful links:

NHS Guidelines: meeting needs and reducing stress

British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) factsheets

Positive and Proactive Care: reducing the need for restrictive interventions

Institute of Conflict Management