Teachers in Aberdeen are being balloted for strike action over what union bosses have branded “unacceptable” violence and racial and homophobic abuse from pupils.
Staff at Northfield Academy in the city have raised serious concerns about their safety as a result of what the EIS teaching union have described as extremely challenging behaviour by a small number of pupils.
The union told STV News how teachers have been subjected to physical and verbal abuse from pupils as well as racial and homophobic abuse and gender-based violence.
They also say some physical assaults have resulted in reports to police.
The EIS has met with the school and management at Aberdeen City Council, however say no adequate response to the problem has been taken.
A previous consultative ballot of members resulted in 81% of teachers supporting some for of industrial action with 70% supporting strike action.
The statutory ballot is now open and will close on November 18.
EIS Aberdeen Local Association joint secretary Heather Collie said: “Teachers are well accustomed to dealing with pupil indiscipline, and experience a wide range of challenging behaviours throughout their working lives.
“This is never a pleasant part of the job, but it is a reality for which teachers are highly trained and highly skilled. What will always be unacceptable, however, is where challenging behaviour escalates to become violence or the threat of violence against a member of teaching staff.
“It is, unfortunately, the case that violence against teachers, both physical and verbal, perpetrated by a very small percentage of pupils, has become far too frequent at Northfield Academy. It is for that reason that Aberdeen EIS requested, and the EIS Emergency Committee authorised, a statutory industrial action ballot for our members at the school.”
Co-Aberdeen Local Association secretary Ron Constable added: “The EIS has attempted to engage with school management at Northfield Academy, and with the local authority, to ensure that our members’ concerns in relation to their safety are properly addressed.
“The response has been, to put it mildly, disappointing and this has compelled us to ballot our members for industrial action. Aberdeen EIS has already highlighted a range of actions than must be taken to provide a safe working environment for teachers in the school, as well as a range of measures to ensure that any teachers who are subjected to physical or verbal violence are supported properly by their employer.
“A safe place to work is surely not too much to ask for teachers, who simply want to get on with their jobs delivering a quality educational experience for young people.”
An Aberdeen City Council Spokesperson said: “Aberdeen City Council is disappointed that the EIS has balloted members on industrial action at Northfield Academy. Considerable work has been undertaken to address concerns raised by the trade union since the dispute was lodged in June 2022.
“Staff have engaged with opportunities to have a greater voice in school improvement and with training to develop their skills and practices. Staff welcomed the chance to invest significant time on the development of a refreshed relationships policy last session in collaboration with pupils and wider stakeholders, including the Parent Council.
“The school launched an innovative pilot to support pupils finding it hardest to engage with education, bringing considerable additional staffing resource and expertise to the school. Northfield Academy is a school where every staff member and pupil is valued – where inclusion and opportunity are at the heart of education – and we hope to work with trade union colleagues to resolve the issues raised, so we might continue to provide a positive place of learning for all.”
Police Scotland say they have dealt with instances of violence at the school.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We take all reports of violence seriously and will thoroughly investigate any incidents reported to us. Anyone with concerns should contact police on 101, or 999 in an emergency.”
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