Cuts to specialist teachers raise fears of classroom disruption

Teachers can face violence and disruption, including being bitten, spat on, scratched and teased. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Teachers can face violence and disruption, including being bitten, spat on, scratched and teased. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Cuts to the number of teachers for pupils with additional support needs (ASN) has led to concerns over disruptive and aggressive behaviour in classrooms.

The EIS teaching union is now warning that the extent of the cutbacks could undermine the “mainstreaming” principle of teaching youngsters with additional needs alongside the main pupil population in Scotland’s schools.

Teachers are specially trained to deal with pupils, but can face violence and disruption, including being bitten, spat on, scratched and grabbed.

Figures published last year showed ASN teacher numbers had fallen 13 per cent between 2010 and 2014 to 2,963 while overall teachers numbers fell 2.3 per cent to 50,814 in the same period. ASN teacher numbers dropped in 22 out of Scotland’s 33 local authorities.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said cuts to ASN teacher numbers has resulted in high workloads and an increasing struggle to meet the needs of these pupils.

He said: “Many ASN teachers report feeling under-valued or not fully supported by senior management, for example when violent incidents have occurred being told that ‘it’s part of the job’ and not fully supported to report and deal with pupils’ aggressive and disruptive behaviour.”

The Additional Support for Learning Act places education authorities under duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.

But growing concerns over cuts to ASN provision led to a number of resolutions from the 2016 EIS agm in relation to disruptive and aggressive behaviour, indiscipline problems, the consequences of the presumption of mainstreaming and teacher shortages.

The principle of “mainstreaming” in Scotland’s schools sees pupils with additional support needs being taught in classes alongside the general school population, with ASN teachers at the heart of this approach. But ongoing cuts to school budgets and teacher numbers has seen the current situation described as “mainstreaming on the cheap” by ASN teachers in the EIS.

Mr Flanagan added: “ASN teachers are reporting a lack of equipment and resources, which makes their day-to- day work more difficult. Some schools no longer have any one-to-one support for pupils with ASN, or have no specialist services.

“ASN teachers are stressed and struggling due to the cuts and the inclusive educational environment we all support is being stretched to the limit.

“Those who are making these cuts should be aware of the damage they are causing,” he added.

The Scottish Government says decisions about employment of support staff in schools are down to local councils and their duties under the ASL Act.

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