‘Will I be able to walk again?’ - Teacher's fear after pupil attack

Sarah* suffered a concussion and serious neck and spinal injuries after being thrown against a wall during class.

A Scottish teacher has told how she feared she may never be able to walk again after being assaulted by a pupil.

Sarah* was picked up and thrown against a wall during a class, suffering a concussion, whiplash, and serious neck and spinal injuries.

She still requires regular physiotherapy several years after the incident took place. 

Sarah told Scotland Tonight that her day started as usual on the day of the attack, and she welcomed children into her class to begin a task.

She said: “The child was coming towards me – I just thought they were in the activity – and as they got towards me, they placed their hands on my chest and threw me up into the air and threw me off the wall.”

An ambulance was called and Sarah was taken to hospital.

“The whole time, my eyes were closed,” she added. “I was being placed in a collar, I was placed on a spinal board. I was thinking ‘will I be coming out of hospital? Will I be able to walk again? I have a daughter at home…how is my life going to be?’” 

Sarah is confident that what happened to her could have been avoided. 

The pupil who assaulted her had attacked other teachers in the past – but she claims those incidents weren’t dealt with properly.

She said: “I do believe as I left, the child had actually followed. I did get told that by another colleague. However, the child was just taken away and put back into another classroom as if nothing had happened.” 

It took Sarah a year to return to work following the incident. But she was no longer able to do her old job, and has since had to retrain. 

In 2022, almost 15,000 violent incidents were reported in Scotland’s schools – the most in half a decade.

The true figure is likely to be far higher, though, as the annual data only covered 24 of the country’s 32 local authorities.

Elisabeth Smyth trained to be a primary teacher during the pandemic and experienced violence from pupils within her first week in the classroom.

She said: “It was within my very first placement. I was warned that I had a very violent learner within my class and prior to that you don’t get training on how to deal with this.

“A lot of members of staff in that school basically put the fear into me of facing this child for the first time because I didn’t know how to deal with them.

“It would be chairs being thrown, furniture being launched. They could throw anything they wanted at you, they’d be making fists and coming at you very aggressive as well.

“It’s terrifying because we obviously can’t put our hands on the children. You can’t restrain them in any way at all. So you have to think, ‘right, how do I deal with this?’”

Throughout her career, Elisabeth has also been stabbed in the leg with a pair of scissors, bitten, and scratched by pupils.

In a recent survey of 875 schools across Scotland, 82% of teachers told the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) they’re dealing with “violence and aggression” every week. 

Almost three quarters believe the issue has worsened since before the pandemic.

Andrea Bradley, the union’s general secretary, said: “We’re talking about verbal aggression, teachers being sworn at, abusive language, but also incidences of violence, teachers being punched, spat at, kicked, objects thrown at them. It’s a whole array of behaviours from young people that in the past we would have seen as being more of a rarity.”

Last week, education secretary Jenny Gilruth announced a £900,000 fund for training for teachers. 

“We welcomed the cabinet secretary’s acknowledgement of there being a problem and the scale of the problem,” Ms Bradley added. “But in terms of that amount of money, it amounts to £30,000 per local authority and in the region of £300 per school. Frankly, it doesn’t touch the sides of the issue.”

Sarah agrees more funding is needed for schools, not only for training, but also to recruit more staff, and reduce class sizes.

She said: “No abuse should be tolerated. We set the foundations for children for life – and if you’re saying it’s acceptable where they are learning and (in) the very young years of their life, then we’re saying it’s acceptable for them to then go out in society and behave in the same way.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in