20 Mar 2019

NIC-ICTU violence survey online 21 Feb 2019

The NIC-ICTU Education Trade Union Group today (Thursday 21 March 2019) release the findings of a major survey of teachers and support staff  from nine* education unions affiliated to the ICTU.

This survey was carried out by the nine trade unions in October 2018 in response to concerns raised by members of individual unions in relation to levels of violence in schools.

1427 members of ICTU affiliated unions in Northern Ireland responded to the survey. 1133 were members of teaching unions and 294 members of support staff unions.

Among the findings of the survey (attached) are that:

  • 1 in 3 education workers experience PHYSICAL abuse annually
  • 1 on 5 receive physical abuse ONCE a WEEK
  • 83% have been VERBALLY abused in the classroom
  • 45% of verbal abusers are PARENTS

Some education workers receive far more abuse than others.

  • 88% of Special Education teachers have received verbal or physical abuse
  • 95% of support staff, such as classroom assistants, have been assaulted.

The consistent view of all unions representing education workers is that it is a reasonable expectation that schools should be safe places with robust mechanisms to protect all students and those working with them – teachers and support staff.


The Chair of the NIC-ICTU Education Group Denise Walker (GMB) said:

“Everyone expects and is entitled to go to work free from the threat of physical violence but if you work in one of Northern Ireland's schools in a support role, you could be one of the 51% who have been subjected to a physical incident at work. 43% of whom reported having been a victim of physical violence weekly.

“With only 34% of victims receiving any form of support and action taken in only 22% of incidents, our support staff are feeling exposed and unsupported!

“Classroom assistants and support staff work in schools helping some of the most vulnerable pupils, yet they receive little or no support when they need it most. Over 54% of teaching staff felt supported after reporting similar incidents and while this is still too low, it demonstrates that the support structures are just not being applied adequately or equally. This is totally unacceptable.

“The Education Authority and Department of Education must act now to eradicate the threat of violence in our schools. It's time they take responsibility and ensure they carry out the duty of care that the staff they employ deserve.”


Vice-chair of NIC-ICTU Education Group Maxine Murphy-Higgins (NASUWT) added:

“The figures in this survey are truly shocking. Just over 55% of primary school teachers have been assaulted at work while almost 90% of special school teachers have been assaulted.

"But any discussion of violent and disruptive behaviour in schools has to be put in the context of the budget cuts that are happening in Northern Ireland.

"Schools are losing the specialist support that they did have to work with vulnerable younger people, class sizes are getting bigger and there are not enough resources being put into supporting pupils with special educational needs (SEN).

“In many schools teachers and support staff receive little or no support when they are assaulted and in a minority of schools the first reaction of management is to blame the staff member for the assault. Attitudes like this lead to under-reporting of incidents of management and heighten the risk of more serious assaults in future.”  

“The Department of Education as a matter of priority must ensure that all schools are meeting their statutory obligations to maintain a safe working environment for all staff.”​


NOTE: *The ICTU-affiliated unions whose members participated in this survey were: NIPSA: NASUWT; Unison; INTO; GMB; UTU; Unite; Prospect; NAHT.