Teachers cite assaults and high workloads in letters to Nicola Sturgeon

Teachers have described physical and verbal assaults, overwhelming workloads and a lack of staff in schools in letters sent to the Scottish Government.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in October asked teachers in Scotland to write to her to tell her about their experiences of working in the profession.

A freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives has released 60 out of 120 letters which were sent during that time.

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Amongst the letters, concerns over assaults, as well as difficulty in managing the level of work required, were raised.

Teachers raised a number of concerns in letters sent to the Scottish Government. Picture: PATeachers raised a number of concerns in letters sent to the Scottish Government. Picture: PA
Teachers raised a number of concerns in letters sent to the Scottish Government. Picture: PA

In one letter, a teacher writes: “The class teacher was hit, I was kicked and punched. My amazing support staff were subject to repeated kicks to the stomach and were bitten.”

Another teacher wrote: “The best teacher I have ever seen left last year due to paperwork and sheer unmanageable workload... something must be done before there are no teachers left.”

The lack of teaching staff was also cited as a significant issue.

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One letter stated: “We share a headteacher but she is available less and less to manage our school as the workload at our cluster school is ever increasing due to cuts in support staff, social services, primary mental health services, speech and language - the list goes on.”

The Scottish Conservatives have said that the letters highlight the pressure teachers are under in schools, including increased levels of violence in the classroom.

Liz Smith MSP, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “These letters speak for themselves. As well as all the other pressures currently being cited by teachers, the growing level of violence in our classrooms is a major worry.

“It is a completely unacceptable state of affairs that many teachers are forced to operate in this kind of environment.

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“It is also interesting to note from the letters that teachers believe some of the problem is created by the well-intentioned, but nonetheless increasingly problematic policy which encourages local authorities to mainstream all pupils wherever possible.

“In far too many cases, pupils with particular support needs are in classes which cannot possibly provide them with the support they need.

“Likewise, there are growing worries that the education of other pupils in these classes is being affected and putting unfair, additional pressures on teachers.

“John Swinney has acknowledged in Parliament that the mainstreaming policy should be reviewed. He has to do so urgently for exactly the reasons spelt out in these letters.”

Education Secretary John Swinney said that the Scottish Government is working towards improving conditions for teachers.

“No teacher should have to suffer abuse in the workplace, and we want all pupils to behave in a respectful manner towards their peers and staff,” said Mr Swinney.

“Our refreshed guidance on preventing and managing schools exclusions, published in June 2017, includes guidance on managing challenging behaviour.

“The number of teachers is the highest since 2010 and we have committed to creating new opportunities for teachers to develop their careers.

“We have also undertaken a range of actions to reduce teacher workload, acting to clarify and simplify the curriculum framework and to remove unnecessary bureaucracy.”