Teachers terrified of being coughed and spat at by pupils as schools return

2 July 2020, 07:45

Teachers have said they fear coronavirus could be used to bully pupils
Teachers have said they fear coronavirus could be used to bully pupils. Picture: Getty

By Charlotte Lynch

LBC has been told school pupils have been coughing and spitting at each other, and their teachers, using the threat of coronavirus.

Teachers fear the problem could grow worse when children in all year groups return to classes in September. There’s also concern that some could use it as a bullying tactic.

It's after we revealed earlier this week that coughing and spitting offences have shot up by 74% during lockdown in England and Wales.

Secondary school teacher Nik Jones has been speaking out on behalf of his colleagues who he says have been spat at.

The English teacher, from County Durham, told LBC: "I know one colleague who was seriously upset when that happened to her because she's got a young child who is very seriously ill.

"Whilst she was pretty sure that she hadn't actually been covered in anything, she was close enough to the incident and it really rocked her."

When asked how many of his colleagues he knows it's happened to, Nik said: "Just the three, which doesn't sound like a lot, but I think what we have to remember is if it's happening to one member of staff in that school it's probably happened to a lot of members of staff in that school, and if it's happening in that school it's probably going to be happening elsewhere.

"It'll only take one or kids to do that who genuinely have the coronavirus, and all of a sudden we're in a situation where that school, those students, those staff members and the families all attached to that school are in quite serious danger."

Mr Jones, who is also joint District Secretary for the National Education Union in Durham, fears some pupils will use it as a way to bully their peers.

"Horribly, it'll be one of those trends that people want to have a bit of a laugh with.

"There's a very real chance that any student who does express a fear about the virus won't feel brave enough to talk about those fears in a sensible way, because those fears will be used as a bullying tactic. I have no doubt about that, unfortunately.

"The difficulty will be, because we're expected to have everybody back in September at the minute, we're not going to have enough staff to manage that as well as we'd like to. I doubt very much any school will.

"It probably won't happen in the classroom. It'll happen in the corridors, it'll happen in the toilets, the changing rooms, out on the field, and we're not necessarily going to be there to stop that.

"It's inevitable, I think."

Figures obtained by LBC from 22 police forces show during eight weeks between March and May there were more than 2,500 recorded offences of spitting and coughing.

That's a rise of more than 1,000 on the same time last year.