Showdown between unions and officials over Kaimes school violence

Several teachers at Kaimes Special School have been barred from the classroom and had their pay stopped after refusing to teach pupils they believe pose a risk to their safety
Several teachers at Kaimes Special School have been barred from the classroom and had their pay stopped after refusing to teach pupils they believe pose a risk to their safety
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Council officers are set for a showdown with union bosses when a meeting to resolve 11 teachers being banned from a special school takes place next week.

The city council sent 11 teachers home from Kaimes School with no pay on Monday after the NASUWT union members refused to teach eight specific pupils at the school, which mainly caters for youngsters with autism.

The teachers made their demands on safety grounds after a catalogue of verbal and physical assaults by the “violent” pupils at the secondary part of the school. The council rejected the teachers’ demands, saying staff could not “pick and choose” who they teach and said it amounted to discrimination against disabled children.

The council is drawing up an action plan to resolve the behaviour issues at the school, but the union doesn’t think enough if being done to protect staff from harm.

Education leaders from the council have invited NASUWT bosses to a mediation meeting on Tuesday to try and thrash out a deal to resolve the situation.

A spokeswoman from the NASUWT said: “The council has offered a mediation process to seek to resolve the issues at Kaimes. The NASUWT has agreed to meet with the council to discuss this proposal.”

Union bosses met with education secretary John Swinney on Wednesday who urged both parties to resolve the situation.

A leading autistic charity has also called for both sides to focus on ending the stalemate.

Charlene Tait, deputy CEO at Scottish Autism, said: “While I have no in-depth knowledge of the events leading up to the actions taken by the teachers at Kaimes and whether autistic pupils were involved, it’s essential that all parties focus on resolving this situation.

“In the work we do to support autistic people in the wider context, we know they are not inherently violent nor do they tend to demonstrate aberrant behaviour without purpose or meaning. This is often the result of cumulative stress and anxiety which, of course, affects us all if we feel we are not being understood.”

She added: “The individual’s wellbeing is essential if an optimal learning environment and relationship can be established and developed.

“The Synergy Programme has shown promising outcomes when the focus is on supporting teachers to understand their own responses to challenging behaviours.

“I wholeheartedly believe that the situation at Kaimes and other schools with similar issues can be resolved through attitudinal and systemic change and by daring to be different.”

A council spokesman said: “We welcome the decision by NASUWT to meet with us next week to discuss their concerns. We hope this will enable the situation at Kaimes to be resolved at the earliest opportunity.

“The health, safety and well-being of our staff and the children at the school is of paramount importance to us. We must all work together to deliver the improvements we want to see as quickly as possible.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com