Councillors 'deeply concerned' as 36 teachers attacked in one year

There were 28 assaults in primary and eight in high schools in 2021-22 in Renfrewshire.

Councillors ‘deeply concerned’ as 36 Renfrewshire teachers attacked in school in one year iStock

Renfrewshire councillors have said they are ‘deeply concerned’ after figures revealed teachers have been attacked on 36 occasions in schools in the last year.

The statistic has caused alarm among politicians, with one calling for authorities to “clamp down on” violent conduct.

There were 28 assaults in primary and eight in high schools in 2021-22, with police called over four conflicts in a secondary setting.

Elected members have warned of the risk of trauma from the incidents, saying education staff who have dealt with violent or abusive behaviour need to be properly supported.

Councillor Gillian Graham, Labour group education spokesperson, claimed mental health services for pupils, such as CAMHS, are at “breaking point” and suggested this has negatively impacted pupils and teachers trying to help them.

She said: “There is a lack of investment by the Scottish Government in these resources. This needs to be addressed urgently as we know that the impact of the pandemic has been hardest on disadvantaged communities.

“Mental health support for pupils, such as CAMHS, is at breaking point and this has a knock-on effect not only to pupils and their families but the teachers working to support them.

“It’s essential that all education staff working with young people have the best professional learning and training to deal with these situations and support young people.

“In addition to supporting our pupils, we need to ensure that education staff are supported as dealing with violent or abusive behaviour can be traumatic.”

The data, which was released by Renfrewshire Council following a Freedom of Information request, showed the number of attacks has increased from 2020-21, which saw ten recorded in primary schools and none in high schools.

However, it was noted there were disruptions to that academic year, as well as 2019-20, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 51 assaults were recorded in primary schools in 2019-20, 108 in 2018-19 and 79 in 2017-18, while the figures in high schools for the corresponding years were one, four and five.

Councillor David McGonigle, Conservative group education spokesperson, said no teacher should go to work worrying that they could be subjected to an attack.

He said: “Teachers should feel safe at all times in our classrooms as they go about doing their job.

“It is deeply concerning to see the number of assaults that are being committed against our teachers, and it shows the impact of SNP cuts to our schools and local authority budgets.

“There needs to be a zero-tolerance approach towards these assaults and the Scottish Government, backed up by Renfrewshire Council, should ensure that there are resources to support those with complex needs.

“No teacher should be worried about being attacked in their workplace and these figures should be an urgent wake-up call for this behaviour to be clamped down on.”

Councillor Emma Rodden, the SNP-led council’s education convener, said the health and wellbeing of staff, children and young people is “a highest priority” for the administration.

She said: “We provide a range of supports and services available to staff, children and young people, such as support for physical or mental health.

“For staff, this includes support from managers, counselling, stress awareness and relaxation support and continued investment in professional learning.

“Our inclusive curriculum ensures that wellbeing and emotional literacy is taught through effective learning and teaching using evidence-based programmes, such as Emotionworks, that support our children and young people to express their stress and anxiety in healthy ways. Parents are also offered support through the REN10 initiative.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “Violence is never acceptable and the safety of pupils and staff is paramount.

“The Scottish Government and partners across education advocate for schools and local authorities to work with pupils in identifying the underlying reasons for inappropriate behaviour.

“It is up to schools to decide on how they respond to each incident.

“We have provided guidance to support local authorities and schools to embed support for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, in addition to professional learning for school staff to support this.

“This complements a £16m investment to ensure that every secondary school has access to counselling services.

“We also provide councils with an additional £15m each year to help them respond to the individual needs of children and young people, and provide over £11m of funding to directly support pupils with complex additional support needs and services to children and families.

“This forms part of our overall investment in education, which is the highest per pupil of any UK nation.”

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