If you have been assaulted

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Health and safety
02 November 2016
This page sets out the steps that you should consider following a physical assault.

It also covers appropriate action for schools, information about self-defence and refusal to teach.

Checklist following a physical assault

  1. You should be allowed access to a private area where you can sit with a friend - you may wish to leave the school and go home.
  2. You may have to visit your GP or a hospital, accompanied by a friend, representative or colleague. A medical assessment of any injury should be made as soon as practicable. A doctor's report, or even photographs of the injury, can be important evidence in any claim or legal proceedings.
  3. If the assault has occurred away from the premises, the school should be formally notified.
  4. A written record of the assault, any injury and the circumstances leading up to the assault should be made as soon as possible.
  5. Where the injury is not obviously superficial, you should notify the local office of the Department of Work and Pensions. This could be important if a claim for disablement benefit becomes appropriate. Since the lasting consequences of an injury may only become evident later, it is best to report all injuries, no matter how minor.
  6. Report the incident to the police. You may be reluctant to do this but it is an important step to take, particularly if you seek compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) scheme.
  7. Report the incident to the headteacher and ensure that he or she has passed the information on to the LA. You should ask the headteacher to confirm in writing that they have done this.
  8. If your symptoms continue, attend a follow-up appointment with your GP.

Action for schools

Further guidance on the steps ATL expects an employer to take are set out in ATL's policy on violence, threatening behaviour and abuse.

When an ATL member has been assaulted or threatened by a pupil, we expect your employer to take action. Your views are important and should be taken into consideration when planning how to manage the consequences of an incident.

The assault should be reported to the police with a view to prosecution. ATL expects your school to support you if this step is taken. Any action that might hinder the police's involvement will be challenged by ATL.

It is vital that school support their staff in pursuing more actions where appropriate. This sends the message to pupils and adults who visit the school site that assaults on staff are unacceptable.

Assault by a pupil

When the assailant is a pupil, the school must:

  • immediately suspend the assailant from school, pending a prompt assessment of the appropriate disciplinary process and penalties
  • ensure that the assault is reported to the police at the first available opportunity
  • deal with the assailant promptly, fairly and, above all, firmly under the school's disciplinary system
  • ensure the assaulted teacher is not asked to teach or supervise the pupil if he or she returns to school.

Assault by a visitor or intruder

ATL believes local authorities should be far more active in prosecuting adults who have assaulted staff. This sends a clear message that such behaviour will result in legal action leading to a conviction and a criminal record.

The following is a checklist of steps that should be taken by the school as a minimum.

  1. The school should have a policy on abusive, threatening or violent adult visitors. If there is an assault, this procedure must be applied.
  2. The school must take practicable steps to remove the individual from the premises as quickly as possible, involving the police as necessary.
  3. If the police have not already been involved, they should be informed immediately.
  4. If the assailant is known, the incident must be followed by a warning letter stating that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and that he or she is not permitted to come onto the school premises without an appointment.
  5. Where appropriate, take action to prosecute directly or via the police.
  6. All incidents involving abuse, threatening behaviour, violence or the threat of violence to anyone at your school should be recorded.
  7. If you are injured as a result of an assault, your employer may need to report this to the Health and Safety Executive.

ATL expects your employer to take follow-up action on your behalf, such as legal proceedings against your assailant and the provision of counselling or occupational health support. These issues should be covered by your school's policy.

Where such episodes are a recurrent problem, the school should consider putting a formal notice on the entrance or entrances to the school informing intruders that they may face prosecution.


You might be placed in the position of having no choice but to defend yourself or to take action to defend others, possibly pupils.

Just like any other citizen, you are entitled to use or threaten to use force to protect yourself or others against an unjustifiable attack, provided the force used (or threatened) is reasonable and proportionate. You may also take pre-emptive action if you think harm is about to be inflicted on yourself or others.

In either situation, if you use force which is excessive and therefore not reasonable, this may well amount to assault or battery, with criminal liability. You could also be sued in the civil courts for damages.

Refusal to teach

Sometimes an incident is so serious that staff may collectively consider refusing to teach the pupil concerned. Refusal to teach, supervise or have other professional contact with the pupil is a form of industrial action. It is a last resort and ATL should always be consulted for advice, assistance and approval before the decision to refuse is taken. Action taken along with other unions is often the most effective.

More information is available from the refusal to teach section of this website and in ATL's publication, Industrial action.

See also