More than 500 teachers and SNAs took leave after physical assaults in schools

Published date23 March 2023
New figures released to The Irish Times show 150 teachers and more than 500 SNAs applied for "assault leave" since the scheme was introduced in 2017. There were 142 successful applications for leave under the scheme in the last school year, the highest number so far

When calling for wider use of the scheme, Fórsa SNA representative for north Leinster Carol McSherry referred to a recent incident in which one SNA had part of her ear bitten off by a child in a school in the region. In a bulletin sent to members in February, the union, which represents more than 12,000 SNAs, said "our SNA colleagues were shocked to hear about the most recent incident", which has left the woman with a permanent injury. Ms McSherry, speaking to The Irish Times, said the woman had been "disfigured. It's not going to properly heal."

Ms McSherry also referenced another incident in a different school in which a woman in her early 60s was assaulted in work by a child. "Her shoulder was broken … [and] she's in constant pain," she said. "She needs pain medication every night to sleep. And now she has a thing called frozen shoulder. Her worry is … she's now expected to go back into the same environment again and work but she can't lift her hands up properly."

Department of Education figures show that from September 2017 to January of this year there were 663 applications for leave, 341 of which were in primary schools, 313 in special schools and nine in post-primary schools.

Under the scheme, leave may be granted to a teacher or SNA who is unable to perform his/her duties due to a physical injury following an assault in the course of their duties and during approved school activities.

The maximum leave available for assault is three months at full pay in a rolling four-year period but this can be extended for another three months in cases of serious assault. There have been 10 cases where the applicant availed of the maximum 183 days off.

The department said no specific details on the circumstances of individual applications were available but it appeared most assaults were of a non-deliberate nature carried out by pupils with additional needs.

Fórsa's education division organiser for Connacht/Ulster, Séamus Ryan, stressed that "there's a complex set of situations for each child that has special needs. They're not really responsible for their actions in something like this … Nobody is ascribing blame or fault."

Inclusion Ireland chief executive Derval McDonagh said: "It is apparent...

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