Almost a third of nursery nurses and pupil support assistants in Edinburgh do not feel safe at work, according to a survey on violence by unions.
The research by Unison and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) found more than half of nursery nurses and pupil support assistants (50.6%) said they witnessed violence daily or several times per day, while 48.7% had directly experienced violence at least once a week.
The unions have presented councillors and senior officials in Edinburgh with an 11-point plan to tackle the issue of violence in the city’s schools.
The survey of 1,378 staff found seven out of 10 nursery nurses and pupil support assistants and more than half of teaching staff feel suffering violence is seen as “part of the job” by employers.
Staff said they are dissatisfied with how the council manages issues of violence and aggression.
Graham Neal, Unison Edinburgh branch communities and families vice-convener, said: “With a third of staff not feeling safe at work and 70% feeling the employer just sees violence as part of the job, there is a real crisis here that the council must face up to.
“Our members are committed to the children they work with but we need greater clarity about what happens when schools cannot meet the needs of a child.
“We are calling for a review of the criteria for placing children in special schools and schools need to be properly staffed to deal with actual intake.
“Most of all we need the council to recognise the problem and be clear that violence is not ‘part of the job’ and ensure that our members are given the support to manage these difficult situations.”
Almost a third (32.6%) of nursery nurses and pupil support assistants reported they do not feel safe while at work, while 40% of teaching staff said they feel anxious about some classes because of worries about violence.
Almost 90% of teaching staff said they had not had any relevant training on dealing with violent behaviour in school.
Alison Murphy, of EIS, said: “Whilst it is important to remember that most pupils in our schools are well behaved and engaged with learning, there are, unfortunately, a minority whose behaviour is proving increasingly difficult, or impossible to manage. This is a consequence of ‘inclusion on the cheap’.
“At exactly the same time as we started moving children with increasingly complex medical, social, emotional or learning needs into mainstream classes, we embarked on a decade of cuts in resourcing and staffing that makes it impossible to meet these children’s needs.
“The impact on staff who must try to manage this, on the other children who daily witness violent outbursts and whose teachers cannot meet their needs because of constant crisis management, is severe.
“Maybe worst of all is the dreadful impact on these children themselves, whose behaviour is often a result of severe distress, and who need skilled, well-resourced and appropriately focused help to enable them to overcome their many challenges but who are, instead, being failed by a system that is beyond breaking point.”
The 11-point plan includes better training and staffing levels, better support for staff and better recording of incidents, better risk assessments, and targeted action where there are particular problems.
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