TEACHERS and staff in Oxfordshire schools have been assaulted by pupils more than 4,000 times in the past five years, figures show.

The statistics, released to the Oxford Mail through a Freedom of Information request, show 4,160 attacks at county schools since the 2009/10 school year.

The figures have dropped year-on-year, but education expert John Howson said it could be linked to the growth of academies in the county, which do not necessarily have to report incidents to Oxfordshire County Council.

More than half of incidents – 2,406 – took place in primary schools, while almost 3,000 assaults occurred against “other school staff”, such as teaching assistants.

There were 1,329 incidents at special schools and 425 at secondary schools.

The police have been involved on five occasions including three in 2011/12.

Since 2009 a total of 246 children have either been excluded or suspended because of this type of incident. So far this year, there have been 260 assaults on staff.

County council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said the council was aware of the problems.

She said: “We have a Teachers Joint Committee where we meet about four times a year with representatives from unions and schools.

“Schools always report to us so we would know if there was a particular problem.”

Cutteslowe Primary School headteacher Jon Gray said: “I am slightly surprised by the figures.

“If a three-year-old hit a teacher I am not sure I would call that an assault.

“It may be that the child doesn’t know how to act around other children yet, but that is where we as a school come in.

“Our job isn’t just about teaching kids to read and write, it is also teaching them to engage with other children and adults.”

Mr Howson, who was stabbed by a pupil when he was a teacher in London in 1977, said: “One thing we do need to look at is whether the drop is linked to academies, as they may not have reported as much to the local authority.

“One thing people realise, through TV shows like Educating Yorkshire and Tough Young Teachers, is pupils don’t have as much respect for teachers as they used to.

“Primary school children seem to grow up in a different way these days and some come to school without much interaction with adults.

“One reason why staff, such as teaching assistants, are assaulted more often than teachers could be that there is a lack of training for those in comparison to teachers.”

Retired teacher Rosemary Harris, of Stonesfield, was deputy head of Charlbury Primary School and taught there for 20 years.

She said the stories she read about violence in schools shocked her and did not fit in with her time in education.

She said: “It’s a different world – not one that I recognise.

“I remember a colleague being punched in the breast by a nine-year-old child, so hard it left a bruise.

“But that kind of incident was extremely rare.

“There is not the respect there was for teachers years ago. There is such pressure on staff to train pupils to pass SATs, that other areas of education are left behind.

“It’s sad more than anything. Many troubled children simply want to be noticed, accepted or loved. They don’t come into schools now at the same level they did years ago. Their vocabularies are poor and they haven’t had stories read to them.”

Dr Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “There is never any excuse for pupils to assault staff. Thankfully it is relatively rare.

“But regrettably teachers and support staff suffer the backlash from deteriorating standards of behaviour.

“They are frequently on the receiving end of children’s frustration and unhappiness, and have to deal with fall-out from parents failing to set boundaries and family breakdowns.”