A CHILD aged four attacked a teacher in one of 71 school assaults in six years in a single council area.

The attacks included a youngster lashing out at a teacher with a tree branch. In another assault at Heathfield Primary School in Ayr, a teacher was left with broken ribs and a black eye after an attack by a nine-year-old.

News of the assaults, revealed by a Freedom of Information request to South Ayrshire Council, comes a week after the death of teacher Ann Maguire in Leeds. A 15-year-old boy has been charged with her murder.

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The information request showed South Ayrshire Council had experienced incidents at all eight of its secondary schools and at 15 of 41 primaries.

Between 2007 and 2013, there were 71 recorded classroom assaults in which pupils launched attacks with compasses, furniture, books, and even food. All children involved in attacks were temporary excluded but later allowed back into class.

The Educational Institute of Scotland is demanding children who attack teachers be expelled. A spokesman for the teachers' union said: "Local authorities must consider how best to ensure a safe environment for all pupils and staff.

"We have a zero tolerance approach and there is no circumstance where it is acceptable for any employee, including a teacher, to feel physically threatened in the workplace."

The ages of the pupils involved in the attacks range from four to 15, and from 2012 to 2013 three attacks were committed by nine-year-olds.

Of the seven recorded incidents that year, three were also deemed a "physical assault using improvised weapon against staff".

A South Ayrshire Council spokeswoman said all staff had the right to involve the police but added: "None of the teachers referred to chose to contact the police".

Douglas Hutchison, the area's head of education, said: "Aggression in any form towards council employees will not be tolerated."