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Teachers learn self defence as violence soars in Perth schools

WA teachers are learning self-defence moves and how to physically restrain violent and aggressive students as a safe last resort, in a bid to combat the rising tide of violence in the classroom.

About 2000 public school staff in WA undergo restraint and de-escalation training each year, offered by Queensland-based company Team Teach Asia Pacific.

They are taught a variety of verbal, body language and physical techniques on how to manage students with challenging behaviour and defuse volatile situations.

The proper use of restraint is allowed in emergency situations where students are at risk of harming themselves or others, or causing significant property damage.

Student violence against teachers in WA schools has been alarmingly increasing in recent years, with 558 “physical incidents” reported last year — more than triple the number reported in 2014.

From the start of the 2017 school year until mid-May, there were 172 reported incidents of students attacking students, 20 of which ended up with police being called.

These cases allegedly involve students throwing rocks at teachers or punching, head-butting, pushing, scratching or pinching them.

So far this year, more than 800 staff members from 43 schools had completed the self-defence training.

“Teachers only use this as a last resort when no other technique to calm the student will work,” WA Education Department executive director of Statewide services Lindsay Hale said.

“The training is much more proactive than the idea of ‘self-defence’, it is about helping teachers understand the signs that a student is becoming highly agitated or volatile and learn ways to prevent the situation from getting worse.”

Team Teach Asia Pacific director Nick Burnett said the WA department was a long-time client, while the State’s Catholic education sector was also using his training techniques and WA independent schools were about to come on board too.

He said “95 per cent” of his work, done through “train the…

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