VIOLENT outbursts involving knives, head-butting, biting and spitting are blighting our nation's classrooms, a shocking new study has found.
A new report by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has shone a light on the disorderly behaviour affecting schools around the country.
The document reveals how a small number of pupils are engaging in attacks on their classmates, and sometimes even their teachers.
Victims have ended up with broken fingers and black eyes.
In some special schools for children with emotional disturbance or behavioural disorder, pupils have to be restrained for their own safety or to protect other students and staff.
Incidents of out-of-control behaviour also includes self-injury and attempted suicide.
But according to the report, unprovoked behaviour and unpredictable outbursts, are limited to between 20 and 30 students a year.
In light of the disturbing findings, Education Minister Quinn will now set up a group to implement a €12m plan to combat the behaviour.
According to the NCSE document, the problems are significant issues for many schools.
NCSE chief executive Teresa Griffin said it is not acceptable for some students to "injure, sometimes seriously injure, other students or staff or to disrupt learning".
But it is also not acceptable that students are expelled or that their attendance is otherwise curtailed, she added.
"We must improve the capacity of schools to prevent challenging behaviour and manage it when it occurs," she said.
Guidelines should be issued by the Department of Education on how to deal with violent incidents, the NCSE says.
Part of the solution should involve improved security systems in classrooms for students with behavioural problems, including two-way radio alarms.
It is recommended that extra training be provided for all teachers on managing challenging behaviour, and one teacher in every school should undergo specialist training in behaviour management.
Maighread Ni Ghallchobhair OP, chairperson of two special schools, said: "This plan is long awaited and, if implemented, will make a real difference to improving the management of challenging behaviour in schools. All schools need to be given access to expertise and advice to assist them to develop individualised programmes to address students' needs."
The department published guidelines on supporting students with behavioural difficulties earlier this year.
The NCSE's policy advice paper is entitled The Education of Students with Challenging Behaviour arising from Severe Emotional Disturbance/Behavioural Disorders.