Scottish councils urged to follow Aberdeen's response to school violence crisis

The city is preparing a ‘redesign’ of the way schools are run

Councils across Scotland have been urged to follow Aberdeen’s lead by ordering a review of the way schools are staffed and structured in response to rising pupil violence.

The GMB trade union welcomed the changes announced in the Granite City this week, and called on other local authorities to show the same commitment and leadership.

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The Scotsman reported on Thursday how Aberdeen City Council is planning to restructure its schools, with reviews under way into allocations of pupil support assistants (PSAs) and the provision of specialist places.

Buildings could also be adapted to create better spaces for the growing number of pupils with additional support needs (ASN), which now accounts for more than a third of all the youngsters in school in Scotland.

Aberdeen City Council is thought to be the first to respond to both rising school violence and increasing ASN numbers with a proposed “redesign” of schools.

The move was agreed as schools across Scotland continue to wait for a national action plan for tackling pupil violence, which was promised by the Scottish Government in the wake of a series of school violence summits last year.

Keir Greenaway, the GMB’s senior organiser in public services, said urgent action was needed across Scotland to protect staff, including pupil support assistants, from bearing the brunt of verbal and physical abuse.

He said: “Our members in schools are enduring threats and violence every single day and no one should go work in fear and return home relieved at being unharmed.

“We welcome the changes being proposed in Aberdeen and would urge every local authority in Scotland to address these issues with the same commitment.

“There is a national crisis of violence in our schools but too many ministers and council leaders are still refusing to pull their heads from the sand.

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“The threats and physical abuse being recorded in our schools every day is alarming and driving out skilled and committed staff but are only the tip of the iceberg.

“Aberdeen has acknowledged these issues need to be addressed and taken the first steps towards change. Other councils should now be showing the same leadership.”

The plans were outlined in a motion tabled by Aberdeen’s ruling SNP-Lib Dem coalition at a meeting on Tuesday.

Ron Constable, from the local branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, said: “The motion addresses several issues that EIS has highlighted over the years, including the correct provision of resources for education staff to support the correct level of inclusion.

“We are hopeful that the council’s commitment as outlined in the motion will translate into tangible improvements in the classroom and beyond.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s schools should be safe learning environments for all – violence and abusive behaviour towards pupils or staff is completely unacceptable. Work is well underway to bring forward a joint National Action Plan with COSLA to set out the range of actions needed at both local and national level, which we will publish in the coming weeks.

“Local authorities are responsible for schooling in their area and we would encourage them to review and implement any changes where necessary to support teachers and pupils.”

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