A union boss representing schools in Lewisham has asked that a council motion to ensure school staff safety “becomes deeds and not just words.”

Councillors unanimously passed a motion to back a GMB union campaign to prevent violence in Lewisham’s schools.

This comes after the number of reported assaults on school employees by pupils increased from about 270 for the year ending June 2017, to about 290 in the year ending June this year.

Verbal abuse and threatening behaviour had also increased from about 10 reported instances to 15 over the same period.

Speaking at a full council meeting, cabinet member for school performance, Cllr Chris Barnham said the motion shows support for school staff.

He said: “Everyone has the right to be free of abuse in their place of work.

“I think that is doubly true in a place of education where not only do we want adults to be safe and well in doing their work, but we want to provide a model of behaviour to children.

“Most of the time our schools are harmonious places but we have to face the fact that sometimes things go wrong,” he added.

The GMB has been campaigning for school support staff to be free from the threat of violence or intimidation at work.

In a statement, GMB’s national president Barbara Plant said she was pleased Lewisham Council had supported the motion.

The union looks forward to “putting practical steps in place to ensure the motion becomes deeds and not just words,” she said.

“Our members, a predominantly part-time female workforce, provide invaluable support to Lewisham’s school children and we are extremely pleased to work hand in hand with Lewisham council to ensure our members can go to work safe in the knowledge that their union and their employer are doing all they can to protect them from violent or threatening behaviour,” Ms Plant said.