Teachers call for trouble pupils to be expelled

Edinburgh teachers lost 7270 days to sickness throughout 2013, with stress the key factor. Picture: Cate Gillon
Edinburgh teachers lost 7270 days to sickness throughout 2013, with stress the key factor. Picture: Cate Gillon
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FURIOUS teachers are demanding more unruly kids are expelled – on the back of an explosion in the numbers of staff suffering stress and depression.

New figures show Edinburgh teachers lost 7270 teaching days in 2013, with stress caused by bad classroom behaviour the key cause.

Mental health issues were the number one cause of long-term absences lasting eight weeks or more.

Figures from the rest of the Lothians revealed a similar picture, sparking calls from union leaders for teachers to be better protected by suspending or expelling repeatedly problematic pupils.

Neil McLean, Edinburgh secretary for the NASUWT union and a history teacher at Castlebrae Community High, who has had to take time off because of work-related stress, said: “These figures do not surprise me at all. Staff are still afraid and embarrassed to come forward to ask for help, which is wrong.

“Pupil behaviour is a huge issue. The opinion I’ve had from members is that bad behaviour is an issue that hasn’t gone away.

“Possibly removing kids from schools or putting them into other schools is one solution. It’s not something that happens a lot and it should be used more.”

In Midlothian, around 3099 days were lost to long-term absence in the first ten months of 2013, with mental health-related illnesses the principal cause of teachers being forced to stay away from classrooms.

The same factors were the primary driver behind long-term sickness in East Lothian, where 2628 teaching days were lost over the 2012-13 session.

In West Lothian, 5313 teaching days were lost between November 2012 and October 2013. This was again due mainly to “mental and behavioural disorders”, which includes stress and depression.

Mr McLean said the figures were a sign education chiefs should boost the assistance and flexible working arrangements available to staff.

“I know many feel unsupported and it’s an issue that people do not like to talk about,” he said. “There needs to be a greater awareness among staff that there’s not an issue over asking for help with this.”

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, backed the call for better workplace support. He said: “Once a teacher is off, it’s actually quite difficult to get them back to work. Very often, the employer is not providing appropriate counselling. It would be good to see some sort of multi-agency response involving the employer, the NHS, the teacher and unions.”

Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, branded the figures “worrying”. She said: “I take my hat off to our teachers who face many stressful situations.”

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “Teacher sickness absence in Edinburgh has improved every year for the past four years and is lower than the national average. We are also the fourth best ranked Scottish local authority for teacher sickness absence.”

We recently revealed how 1278 teachers were attacked in Lothian classrooms between August 2011 and June 2012.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com