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Almost 60 per cent of special needs assistants assaulted - survey

An IMPACT survey says that the SNAs were assaulted by the children they work with, with 18 per cent saying it’s a daily occurrence.

ALMOST 60 PER cent of special needs assistants (SNAs) have been assaulted by the children they work with – with almost a fifth saying it is a daily occurrence.

That is according to a survey of over 1,900 SNAs conducted online by IMPACT trade union, which shows that 90 per cent of those assaulted have experienced assaults more than once. Meanwhile, 18 per cent say it’s a daily occurrence and the same number say it happens every week.

The survey results were unveiled at IMPACT’s education division conference in Kilkenny today. Delegates representing 10,000 non-teaching education staff passed motions called for the introduction of a physical assault scheme similar to the one used in the health sector.

“Dismissive”

The survey also says that school management’s response to assaults was described as “dismissive” in 43 per cent of cases. IMPACT said that virtually none of the respondents – 97 per cent of whom were women – took sick leave following the assaults.

Half of the assaults were described as ‘mild,’ 12 per cent were ‘serious’ and required some medical attention, while 2 per cent were ‘very serious’ assaults, which meant they required hospital treatment.

The assaults listed in the survey included hitting, biting, shoving, attempted strangulation, hair-pulling, scratching, slapping, pushing and being hit with objects.

IMPACT is calling for hepatitis B vaccines to be available to SNAs, “because some serious assaults result in blood injuries”. The union is also seeking proper health and safety training and procedures to create a safe classroom environment for pupils and staff.

IMPACT assistant general secretary Dessie Robinson said the attitude of most school principals and management boards was “totally inadequate” and that this was putting the safety of staff, and potentially pupils, at risk.

Some school principals take assaults seriously. But the overwhelming experience of SNAs is that managers and management boards are dismissive of the issue and see assaults as part of the job. They just shrug their shoulders and expect staff to carry on as if nothing had happened.

He said that schools “have a legal and moral responsibility to put in place proper risk assessment, safety procedures, training, and supports for those who experience assault”.

Mr Robinson said IMPACT fully supported integrated education for children with special needs and said the union had campaigned for years to build and develop the SNA role.

Creating and maintaining a safe classroom environment is part of sustaining and expanding integration.

Mr Robinson said one SNA contacted the union after filling in the survey to say that while they responded that assaults were a weekly occurrence, “on reflection it is daily: a possible ten incidences per staff member per day in my class. Having talked to a few colleagues, it seems we have been desensitised to this situation. I think the survey may really underestimate the real truth.”

Read: Parents to protest at Dáil against special needs cuts>

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