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Teachers suffering broken bones amid rising pupil violence, union says

Some teachers spoke out about their concerns (Danny Lawson/PA)
Some teachers spoke out about their concerns (Danny Lawson/PA)

Some teachers are ending up in hospital with broken bones due to increasing levels of violence they face at work, a union leader has said.

David Besley, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said teachers are also ending up with post-traumatic stress disorder due to violent incidents.

It comes as three teachers in Aberdeen spoke to the BBC anonymously about their concerns around pupil attacks.

The EIS is calling for the city council to take action.

In November, a report from the union warned pupil violence has increased over the last four years and 82.7% of schools were reporting violent or aggressive incidents each week.

Mr Besley told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We deal with teachers who have been assaulted and go to hospital with broken bones.

“And that’s without, of course, the post traumatic stress disorders and the effects on teachers’ mental health after long-term dealing with very aggressive situations in classes.”

He said there is a need to accept that behaviour has got worse, with a number of factors potentially contributing to it.

These included staff shortages, the influence of social media and the impact of the pandemic, he said.

One of the teachers who spoke to the BBC said she is “scared in my workplace” while another said an incident had left her with a concussion.

Aberdeen city council education convener Martin Greig said feedback from staff would be considered.

He told the BBC: “Everyone who visits and uses a school environment is entitled to expect that place to be a safe, peaceful, respectful environment.

“So any complaints that come through need to be addressed, in the interests, especially of the young people, but also of staff, families, anyone who is involved in the life of a school.”

He added: “Behaviour in schools is monitored, there are policies and procedures to make sure staff are as safe as possible.

“There’s always more that you can do, and we are absolutely keen to do whatever is necessary to ensure that environment feels safe for all, for staff, for parents and carers and especially for the young people.”

An Aberdeen city council spokeswoman said: “The education service has worked closely with staff and all trade unions to increase the reporting of incidents.

“There is no evidence that teachers are being asked not to submit reports, any such allegations should be brought to our attention so they can be looked into and exclusion remains open to all head teachers if all legal tests are met.

“The strategies put in place to respond to pupil’s behaviour within schools will vary depending on the needs of the child/young person.

“We continue to work alongside a range of partners to support staff within our schools as well as families and children through any challenging times.”

Scottish Conservatives education spokesman Liam Kerr said he would again raise the issue at Holyrood and said guidance and exclusion policies need to be reviewed.

He said: “Violence in schools has continued to escalate and teachers are paying the price for the SNP’s failure to tackle it.

“It’s completely intolerable that teachers are traumatised, afraid for their safety and even scared to go to work because of pupil violence.

“This report highlights problems in Aberdeen, but this is happening right across the country.”

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “Years of inaction and incompetence by this SNP Government has left classrooms across Scotland like pressure cookers.

“Violence in schools is rising and teachers, staff and pupils are all being badly let down.

“Scottish Labour is committed to a zero tolerance approach to violence in schools, by empowering school staff to tackle this crisis so that children are safe to learn and staff feel safe at work.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s schools should be safe learning environments for all – violence and abusive behaviour towards pupils or staff is completely unacceptable.

“The Scottish Government has taken a range of actions, including commissioning the national research on behaviour in Scottish schools, the establishment of the headteachers taskforce and the behaviour summits which were undertaken last year to better understand these issues.

“Whilst Government can set out national parameters in relation to guidance for councils, responding to behaviour is ultimately a matter for local authorities as the statutory responsibility for the delivery of education rests with them.

“That is why the Government is working with local authorities, to bring forward a joint National Action Plan to set out the range of actions needed at both local and national level.”