Dunfermline Press

Attacks have put staff in hospital

Head injuries and broken fingers but mental health toll is worst for teachers

- By Ally McRoberts Reporter amcroberts@dunfermlin­epress.co.uk

TEACHERS in Fife have suffered broken fingers and other injuries and are constantly in “fight or flight” mode due to increasing levels of violence in schools.

Others have been deliberate­ly tripped, suffering “significan­t” knee damage as a result, and had “things thrown at their head and required stitches” according to the local branch of the EIS.

Fife secretary Jane McKeown, who spoke out following a recent survey from the union that painted a grim picture of life in Scottish classrooms, said it was also having a huge impact on mental health levels.

She said: “I’ve been supporting teachers with broken fingers and people who have been tripped and had significan­t knee injuries as a result.

“Some have had things thrown at their head and required stitches.

“However, for the people I deal with the most, the emotional effect on them (is the most serious).

“It’s not just about what’s happening there and then but it’s constantly being on alert.

“It’s fight or flight but they’re forever in fight or flight all the time, every day at work.”

In Fife, 71 per cent of EIS teachers who responded to the survey said they experience­d violence daily, while officials said members have been hospitalis­ed due to physical attacks.

Last week education secretary Jenny Gilruth announced £900,000 to train school staff across Scotland and promised a new “national plan for action”.

However, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alex Rowley said: “Teachers up and down Scotland will be dismayed that point one of a fivepoint plan is to make a plan.

“How many plans will it take for teachers to get the support that they need?

“Does the cabinet secretary not recognise that the government will have to commit far more resources to addressing the challenges in our schools?”

After the publicatio­n of the union’s survey, EIS general secretary Angela Bradley met Shelagh McLean, Fife Council’s head of education and children’s services, to discuss the findings.

Afterwards the union official acknowledg­ed that the council had made “some positive inroads” towards addressing incidents of violent, aggressive and distressed behaviour in schools.

She continued: “But I think there was probably mutual agreement that local authoritie­s including Fife need to see more money from the Scottish Government in order to properly resource education services locally.”

Ms Bradley pointed to a “multiplici­ty of reasons” behind the rise in violence, with a decade of austerity, poverty and deprivatio­n manifestin­g itself in “behaviours we’d associate with isolation, stigma, frustratio­n and worry”.

She added: “The bottom line is that teachers as employees of local authoritie­s are entitled to go to work and be protected from health and safety risks.

“And at the moment, we can’t say that they are going to school sufficient­ly well protected. That should be a matter of concern for everyone.”

Another union, Unison, said that the latest research shows that the biggest impact of pupils’ behavioura­l challenges falls on school employees who are the lowest paid and receive the least training.

They said the Scottish Government’s ‘Behaviour in Scottish schools’ report highlighte­d that 86 per cent of support staff encounter low level disruptive behaviour every day, with 66 per cent experienci­ng verbal abuse and 59 per cent experienci­ng physical aggression on a regular basis.

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