factorfiction3 17,000 teachers attacked by students?

The claim 
“In a typical year now, you get 17,000 teachers being attacked by students. We’ve got a real problem here.”
David Cameron, Leaders’ debate, 15 April 2010

The background
During last Thursday’s leaders’ debate David Cameron came out with a rather startling claim concerning the volume of attacks on teachers.  Since then, many of you have contacted us to ask if he got it right.  Here’s what we found out.

The analysis
FacCheck was told the Tory leader’s claim was based on research published by government via the Schools Census.

Indeed, the research shows that 17,870 fixed-period exclusions were issued after “physical assaults against an adult” by students in schools in 2007/8. It is worth noting that the same research shows that 950 permanent exclusions were also issued during the same period.

However, as the Department for Children, Schools and Families confirmed to FactCheck, numerous fixed-term exclusions could be handed to the same pupil, and of course the same teacher could have been attacked more than once.

In addition, the research relates to “assaults against an adult” meaning that it doesn’t refer strictly to teachers.

The verdict
The Conservative leader is playing rather loose with this claim.  He’s right that the statistics show over 17,000 attacks but we can’t say if they were on teachers or how serious they were as a fixed-term exclusion could refer to suspension for as little as a day. 

It’s worth pointing out that his statement masks the fact that the incident which resulted in a suspension could have been a shove or a push.

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Category: David Cameron, Education
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