December 23, 2012

Attacked head teacher says 'stressed' parents a safety risk

A primary school head teacher who was attacked by the father of a pupil has said all staff and students are at risk from stressed parents.

Paul Stratford punched Zita McCormick in front of other teachers after his son was suspended from Seven Fields School near Swindon for swearing.

He received a nine-month community order at court on Thursday. Education campaigners have condemned the sentence, saying prison should have been considered.

The BBC reports that Stratford punched and pushed Mrs McCormick in the foyer of the school following an argument about his eight-year-old son's behaviour on 22 June.

He tried to claim he was protecting his son and only gently pushed Mrs McCormick's wagging finger away from his son's face, fearing her long nails could blind him.

Mrs McCormick had sent the boy home for the day following his third act of anti-social behaviour that week. The pupil has since been moved to another school.

Stratford, of Beaulieu Close, Swindon, later pleaded guilty to assault and was ordered to pay £400 costs and £100 compensation at Swindon Magistrates' Court.

'Can't control anger'

The head teacher said the situation had been "very frightening". "I just couldn't let him get into the school. I had to ensure that over 300 children behind the doors that he was standing by were completely safe."

Mrs McCormick said the vast majority of parents were supportive and active in school life but she wanted stressed parents to get help elsewhere rather than vent their frustration in schools.

Zita McCormick wants parents to vent frustrations elsewhere rather than directing it at teachers

"I think the challenging circumstances that some parents are in mean they can't control the anger that they have which is much wider than the school," she said.

"The school is somewhere where they just vent personal anger at public servants that are here to protect and educate their children."

A recent survey of head teachers by the school leaders' association the NAHT showed one in 10 had been physically assaulted or attacked by a pupil's parent.

One in five reported being victimised on social network sites and 86% said parents' behaviour towards teachers has worsened.

Chris McGovern, chairman for the Campaign for Real Education and a former headteacher, said magistrates should have considered jailing Stratford for his actions.

"We think schools are sacrosanct and should be a place of safety for children and for staff," he said.

"A case involving anyone bringing violence into school should be treated seriously as it's so undermining of the stability of society.

"Parents see schools as a place of safety and children and staff need to be protected.

"We have seen extreme examples in the US and schools should be a safe place to learn and custodial sentences should be considered."

Related Stories from the BBC:

Father attacked son's headteacher
Attacks on Bristol teachers rise
Primary school pupil violence rising