The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines workplace violence as “any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work” and states that it can include verbal abuse or threats as well as physical attacks. HSE statistics also show that teaching and education professionals have a higher than average rate of violence at work.
Responsibilities of all employees
All employees have a responsibility to co-operate with the employer on, and follow instructions in relation to, health and safety matters.
Preventing assaults – risk assessment
The employer will conduct regular and suitable risk assessments in relation to assaults on employees. The risk assessment will be kept under regular review and updated as necessary.
The risk assessment procedure involves:
- establishing the risk of violence and assault on employees
- considering the risk of stress and/or secondary trauma which arises from working in fear of violence and assault
- taking steps to remove these risks
- where removal of the risk is not possible, reducing the risk by any necessary changes in working practices or by introducing appropriate protective and supportive measures.
Control measures taken to reduce the risk of violence and assault may include, but are not limited to: the provisions of alarms for staff; revision of lone working and/or emergency procedures and changes to the working environment such as improved lighting or room layout.
Where the behaviour of an individual pupil presents a demonstrable and ongoing risk to the health, safety and wellbeing to other members of the school community, and implementation of the school’s pupil behaviour policy has had little or no effect, an individual behaviour risk assessment will be considered.
Incidents that will result in a pupil behaviour risk assessment include, but are not limited to:
- a pupil carrying out – or threatening to carry out – any form of physical or sexual assault, whether in or outside of the school
- a pupil is found to be carrying a weapon, or threatens to bring a weapon into school – such as a knife, ball-bearing gun etc.
The employer will inform all employees of the outcome of the risk assessment (including any relevant pupil behaviour risk assessments), and ensure that this information is included in the induction for all new members of staff, including supply teachers and staff employed via an agency.
The employer will monitor the effectiveness of control measures by monitoring incident rates and equality characteristics of staff affected by assaults, and through meaningful engagement with the workforce and their trade union representatives.
The employer will also gather information about the causes of violence in schools, and will use this information to inform the risk assessment and prevention process. This process may involve engaging with external bodies and through the provision of training and pupil assemblies.
Liaison with the police
Schools should establish a protocol with the local police for dealing with assaults and violent incidents. This should allow the police to be notified and to respond promptly when incidents occur.
Liaison with the police may also be required to address violent incidents within the wider community or within the vicinity of the school. For instance, the school may report concerns about potential dangerous activity, such as knife crime, to the police, for further investigation.
The employer believes that all assaults against employees should be reported, even if they initially appear trivial.
The employer will record all assaults on employees, monitor this data and make it available to all staff and the recognised trade unions. The employer will ensure all staff are made aware, at regular intervals, of the reporting procedures.
The violence and abuse reporting form, available at Appendix 1, should be completed as soon as practically possible following a violent/abusive incident or
following a threat of violence. The employee will be given as much time as is necessary out of their normal duties to complete the form. Once completed, the form will be passed to the employee’s line manager who is responsible for ensuring it is processed and recorded, and action taken in accordance with this policy.
Additionally, under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), the employer is responsible for reporting the following to the HSE:
- all accidents to employees resulting in deaths or ‘specified injuries’ (list available at: hse.gov.uk/riddor/specified-injuries.htm)
- all accidents which result in an employee being off work due to injuries for more than seven days
- all accidents to non-employees which result in them being killed or taken to hospital and which are connected with work.
Any violence or abuse in relation to one or more protected characteristic (age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation) may constitute illegal harassment under the Equality Act 2010.
Procedures to follow if an assault occurs
If an employee is assaulted or is threatened with assault, the following action will be taken:
- The employee will be allowed to access a private area for as long as necessary following the incident.
- The employee will be advised to contact their trade union, if they have not already done so.
- The employee’s line manager and the head teacher should be informed of the incident as soon as possible. The head teacher must inform the employer of the incident.
- Where required, medical treatment will be sought for the employee. The school’s designated first aider will be asked to provide assistance, and further medical treatment assessment sought as necessary (eg at hospital or from their GP). The employer will pay any reasonable charges (eg from a doctor, dentist or optician) that may be incurred following the assault.
- In the case of physical injuries, if at all possible, photos should be taken.
- The employee should also be encouraged to seek an appointment from the employer’s occupational health provider. Occupational health assistance should be sought following both physical and verbal assaults, as there may be stress and anxiety arising from an incident.
- Professional counselling services will be offered to the employee by the employer, with the employer paying the cost of the counselling.
- The incident will be recorded, as soon as possible after the incident, in line with the procedures set out in this policy.
- The head teacher is responsible for ensuring written statements are taken from the employee, any witnesses and the assailant (where applicable) as soon as possible following the incident. The statements will be taken and processed in line with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) guidelines. A copy of all statements taken in relation to the incident will be provided to the employee and their trade union representative.
- The head teacher will conduct an investigation into the incident, or will delegate this responsibility to a member of the SLT. A report will be produced following the investigation, and agreed with the employee. A copy will be retained by the employer, and the manager with responsibility for health and safety. If the assault is being reported to the police, they will also receive a copy of the report.
- Following the incident, the risk assessment will be reviewed by the head teacher, in conjunction with the employer. In cases where the assault was carried out by a pupil, an individual pupil risk assessment will be undertaken. Reference will need to be made to other policies including those addressing pupil behaviour, school security and safeguarding.
If a member of staff suffers an assault away from their normal workplace, but the assault arises in the course of, and via the performance of, their professional duties, support will be provided via this process.
Dealing with weapons
If a member of staff has grounds to suspect that a pupil is in possession of a weapon, or there has been an incident involving a weapon, they should immediately inform their line manager or a member of SLT. Employees are not expected to, and should not, deal with the incident on their own.
The head teacher will make a decision about whether the pupil should be searched, with or without their consent, referring to the school’s confiscation policy and Department for Education (DfE) guidance (available at: gov.uk/government/publications/searching-screening-and-confiscation)
If a weapon is found, or the pupil refuses to co-operate, the police should be called immediately. If a weapon is found during a search before the police have arrived, it should be seized and kept in a safe, secure place until the police arrive.
If a pupil is found to be in the possession of a weapon, the disciplinary policy will be instigated and an individual pupil risk assessment will be undertaken. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, sanctions may include exclusion on a temporary or permanent basis.
Assaults by visitors/intruders
In the case of an assault by a visitor or intruder, the manager dealing with the incident will in the first instance inform the police, requesting their prompt attendance, and ensure that all staff and pupils are safe and secure, following the procedure in this policy for responding to incidents.
If abusive, aggressive or insulting behaviour or language from a parent presents a risk to staff or pupils, or makes them feel threatened, schools have common law powers to bar the parent in question from the premises. If a bar on a parent is deemed necessary, this will be put in writing, giving the parent a formal opportunity to put forward their views before the bar is made permanent. Following any representations from the parent, the bar will be confirmed or removed.
Furthermore, it is a criminal offence, under section 547 of the Education Act 1996, for a person who is on school premises without lawful authority to cause or permit a nuisance or disturbance. It also allows for the removal and prosecution of any person believed to have committed the offence. Therefore, in cases where the assailant is known (including if they are a parent), a letter will be sent stating that their behaviour is unacceptable, and they are no longer permitted to come onto the premises in the future without an appointment. If they do persist in entering the school premises and displaying unreasonable behaviour they will be treated as a trespasser and will be liable to prosecution.
Assaults by pupils
Where an employee is assaulted by a pupil, the pupil’s conduct will be dealt with via the school’s pupil behaviour policy. The pupil will be removed from lessons and isolated from other students. Behaviour sanctions, including exclusion may be required. A fixed term exclusion may be necessary in order to investigate the circumstances around the assault. As part of this process, an individual pupil behaviour risk assessment will also be carried out and the outcome shared with all employees that have contact with the pupil in question. The school’s safeguarding lead should also be consulted following an assault by a pupil as there may be child protection issues to consider.
Where a pupil has assaulted an employee, and they return to school, the member of staff will not be required to teach or supervise the pupil in question if they do not feel comfortable doing so.
The employer’s risk assessment will also specifically consider the risk of sexual assault and harassment against employees. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwanted conduct that violates an individual’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”. It may take the form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature and it is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
Incidents within the school vicinity
The employer will also consider the risk of violent incidents, such as knife crime, not occurring directly on the school premises but in the wider vicinity of the school. The risk assessment will consider the possibility of such incidents occurring, and whether violent incidents have previously occurred in the community. However, school staff will not be required to monitor public areas outside of the school vicinity, and if there are concerns about criminal or dangerous activity taking place, the police will be contacted.
If a violent incident occurs that impacts on the school, such as one involving knife crime, the following steps will be undertaken:
- The head teacher/principal will convene a rapid response meeting with the police. This is particularly important if there is a continuing risk, for instance, if the perpetrator is still at large.
- Counselling will be offered in the aftermath of the incident to the whole school community (staff, pupils and parents).
Support for victims
Employees that have experienced an assault will be permitted paid time off to meet with their trade union representative, the police, legal counsel and to attend court if necessary.
If the employee sustains an injury arising from an assault at work, and it is necessary for them to take sick leave, the employer will advise them of their additional entitlements to sick pay for those suffering injury at work (in
accordance with section 4, paragraph 9 of the Burgundy Book). Following an injury, the employer will also provide the employee with advice on the prospects of obtaining compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, and will offer assistance in making and pursuing an application where appropriate.
Following an assault, the employer will discuss with the employee whether they feel ready to return to their normal duties and advice will be sought from the employer’s occupational health provider. If the employee is not able to complete their normal duties, arrangements will be made for amended duties. For instance, a reduced timetable or shortened working hours. The employee will receive their normal salary during any period of amended duties.
The employer will compensate the employee for any damage to their personal property or clothing as a result of the assault. The employer will also reimburse any prescription charges incurred by the employee as a direct result of the assault.
The employer acknowledges that employees may experience stress and/or anxiety following an assault or arising out of the threat of assault. The employer will offer and pay for employees to attend counselling following an assault. The employee will receive paid time off from work during normal working hours to attend counselling.
Definitions in this policy:
- ‘assault’ refers to any form of violent conduct against a member of staff. It may be physical, psychological, sexual and/or verbal. It also refers to threats of and attempted assault of any kind, and includes abuse and threats made via the telephone or via social media. Behaviours associated with assault may include, but are not limited to: hitting, pinching, biting, spitting, swearing, offensive gestures and unwanted physical contact such as unnecessary touching.
- ‘secondary trauma’ refers to the potential impact on staff of chronic exposure to working with pupils suffering from unregulated stress. This can lead to a replication in the adult of similar regulatory, processing and social disorders as those experienced by the pupil.
- ‘employer’ includes local authorities, multi-academy trusts, dioceses, governing bodies, proprietors and other educational establishments
- ‘manager’ includes the head teacher/principal, members of the senior leadership team and line managers
- ‘employee’ refers to all members of staff including those employed on fixed term contracts, supply teachers employed via an agency or directly by the school, trainees and student teachers, apprentices and contractors employed by the school
- ‘parent’ includes a guardian or carer
- ‘school’ includes a college or any other educational establishment.
Statement of employer model letter on overall responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of staff and students in its school/s.
Statement by the local governing body to meet fully its responsibilities.
Appendix 1 - model reporting form