Cape Town - More than 200 teachers were charged with assault by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) in the past year, education MEC Debbie Schafer confirmed on Tuesday.She said a circular had recently been sent to all schools and officials to remind them that strict disciplinary action will be taken against staff members who administer corporal punishment.In 2015/2016 222 teachers were charged, up from the 204 of 2014/2015.Schafer said corporal punishment and assault are regarded as the same, and carry the same sanctions according to the SA Schools Act."According to StatsSA figures for six provinces for the period 2009 to 2012, the Western Cape has the lowest incidence of corporal punishment in the country," she said in a statement.According to the figures, the Eastern Cape had the highest percentage at 30.3%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 21.4%, the Free State with 18.4% and Mpumalanga with 11.5%.Gauteng had a percentage of 4.6% and the Western Cape 4.5%.Training and support for teachers"However, while the number of cases reported independently to StatsSA remains the lowest, the Western Cape generally has the highest number of cases that are investigated by the department, as a result of our reporting mechanisms and commitment to investigating every case reported to us either through the Safe Schools Hotline, or through the schools and district offices."Schafer said the increase in the number of incidents this past financial year was "completely unacceptable"."In the Western Cape we are committed to building a society based on the values of the Constitution. Physical assault does not reflect these values."While the department was aware of challenges teachers face in terms of behavioural issues, she said the WCED "provides extensive training and support on discipline and positive behaviour programmes" through its district offices."Those providing the training and support include former principals and teachers with many years of experience in dealing with the issue, and professional staff such as school psychologists and social workers."She encouraged pupils to report any form of abuse, intimidation, victimisation or violence to the Safe Schools hotline on 0800 45 46 47.Parents may report incidents to the school principal or the department's district offices.