More than 250 school staff in Lewisham were assaulted by pupils in the past year – with more incidents taking place at primary schools.

Lewisham Council health and safety statistics show close to 270 school employees were assaulted by pupils between April 2017 and March 2018, compared to about 260 from April 2016 to March 2017.

This came as no surprise to GMB Lewisham school’s convenor and national president Barbara Plant, who said the union which represents school support staff were aware this was a growing problem for members.

She said the increases were related to funding cuts as workloads for support staff increased.

She expected further violence if there were more funding cuts.

“It’s the redundancies. Cuts are always coming at the bottom and support staff are always taking the brunt of the cuts,” she said.

GMB Lewisham branch secretary Mark Fennell said the union had run a national campaign to encourage staff to report assaults, which also might be reflected in the increased reports of violence.

“Members are presumably standing up for themselves a bit more,” he said.

But more assaults and violence were taking place at primary schools and in infant schools, Mr Fennell said.

“It is happening more in primary and infant schools. A lot of people are taking time off work relating to stress to do with being kicked, punched and bitten,” he said.

“It can be a volatile area to work in.”

This is also reflected in the council’s statistics, which show about 40 instances of biting were reported in 2017 to 2018, compared to about 30 from the previous period.

Verbal abuse and threatening behaviour had also increased in this period with over 25 instances recorded in 2017 to 2018, compared to about 15 instances in 2016 to 2017, according to the statistics.

Violence and assaults on support staff was an issue the union was taking “extremely seriously,” with a borough-wide campaign planned, Ms Plant said.

She said it was important schools and headteachers followed the right procedures if a member of staff is assaulted.