Five attacks on classroom staff a day in Capital’s schools

Attacks on classroom staff are up
Attacks on classroom staff are up
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ATTACKS on classroom workers by students in the Capital’s schools have more than doubled in three years, figures reveal.

There were 1006 violent acts by pupils on school support staff across the city over the last year – up from 405 in 2014/15.

Union bosses blamed cuts to specialist facilities teaching children with behaviour problems while council bosses pointed to record funding and support for staff.

Exceptional cases reported to the union included a support worker knocked out and hospitalised by a pupil and another needing a tetanus jab after being bitten.

“When you have staff hospitalised, we’re not talking about a slap or a play punch, we are talking about people being seriously injured,” said Graham Neal of Unison.

Outgoing headteacher Isabel Marshall warned in May of insufficient specialist supply teachers for pupils with anger problems in highly charged evidence to a Holyrood committee.

And last month, new 
education leader Ian Perry said increasing the number of classroom assistants is a priority to reduce workloads and relieve the pressure on teachers.

“Part of the issue is that other services that used to be available aren’t any longer, with cuts in place,” said Mr Neal. “Children with higher needs are in mainstream schools but in order for inclusion to work, resources need to be made available.”

He said serious injuries cannot be simply dismissed as “the nature of the job” in working with special needs children.

Losing specialist facilities like the closure of Panmure St Ann’s in the Cowgate earlier this year meant staff are over-stretched, claimed Mr Neal.

Mr Neal also suggested the figures could be the “tip of the iceberg” with significant under-reporting suspected.

“If people have been attacked at work, it’s going to impact on their confidence and, quite possibly, their mental health,” he added.

“In a lot of cases, people talk about feeling a lot more stressed – it takes its toll on staff.”

Cllr Alison Dickie, Education, Children and Families Vice Convener, pointed to a record £37m last year invested in additional support.

Measures to help special schools include high ratios of staff to children and additional support to manage behaviour.

“Assaults against staff in our schools are not acceptable and we will always support staff who are affected,” added Cllr Dickie.

“It’s an unfortunate reality that incidents of aggression do happen in our schools but whenever they occur we take them very seriously. Many occur in special schools where pupils have a range of additional support needs and some can exhibit challenging behaviour. We also work with individuals and families to address this behaviour so we can try and reduce the number of incidents.”