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Highland teachers suffer 'physical violence' and abuse on a 'daily' basis

By Scott Maclennan

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Classrooms should be well ordered like this one but the EIS claims many teachers are facing daily violence and abuse.
Classrooms should be well ordered like this one but the EIS claims many teachers are facing daily violence and abuse.

A damning survey conducted by the teachers’ union the EIS reveals that staff in the Highlands are facing “a significant amount of violence and aggression” in schools

So bad is the situation that many staff consider leaving the profession altogether with as many as 70 per cent of branches reporting violent or abusive incidents every day.

Similar revelations were made about Aberdeen schools last week and sparked a political storm when education secretary Jenny Gilruth said she had not read the report and it was for Aberdeen City Council to respond.

Now similar findings show that the Highland teachers are also suffering from violence and abuse.

The council and schools were specifically criticised in the ‘Highland Summary of the Branch Survey Findings’ for failing to “effectively disseminate policies and procedures to address ‘violence and aggression’.”

On top of that “fewer than 14 per cent of branches felt that teachers were ‘always’ supported” after an incident across what is the largest school estate in Scotland.

It is another blow to Highland Council which was already under pressure over education amid complaints about the curriculum, the worst school estate in the country and after officials tried to blame primary teachers for attainment stats.

And the situation appears to be getting worse not better as “over 96.7 per cent of branches stated that the amount of violence and aggression had grown in the last four years – from levels before the Covid pandemic.”

The report stated: “The most common types of ‘violence and aggression’ in our schools are ‘physical violence towards a teacher’ and ‘intimidatory, obscene or derogatory verbal comments towards a teacher (70 per cent).”

A further 60 per cent said that boys were more likely to exhibit “violent and aggressive behaviours,” and 43 per cent said women teachers were more likely to experience than men.

The impact on teaching staff has been debilitating with “almost all branches reported an increase in stress anxiety and depression for some teachers in their school” and 80 per cent said some teachers are “afraid of certain pupils.”

The same amount (80 per cent) said some “teachers have sustained physical injuries” and “70 per cent said some of the teachers in their school had been on sick leave following a violent and aggressive incident.”

That has led 80 per cent of branches reporting that some have “considered leaving teaching as a result of the violence and aggression” but it is not just teachers who have been badly affected.

In all, 100 per cent of those branches that took part in the nationwide survey are certain that pupils are affected too: “Violent, aggressive or disruptive behaviour, including persistent low-level disruption, in your school” has an effect on learning.

And the report continues: 96.7 believe it is “difficult to maintain or regain pupils” and that “other pupils’ behaviour is adversely affected’ while 94.9 per cent believe it “disrupt certain types of pedagogies.

"All branches surveyed said that pupils are less focussed, more agitated or nervous, and more likely to be disruptive themselves, almost all said that pupils become withdrawn (94 per cent), less happy (94.8 per cent), or become angry or upset (96.7 per cent)."

That was all due to the "impacts of violence, disruption or aggressive behaviour on pupils."

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