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School staff reveal toll of violence in survey

Friday, September 1, 2023

School staff reveal rising tide of violence before crisis talks

Support staff have exposed a daily onslaught of physical violence and verbal abuse in Scotland’s schools before an emergency summit to discuss the crisis.

A GMB Scotland survey has revealed one in six non-teaching staff suffers violence on a daily basis while one in three is assaulted every week.

Meanwhile, half of all workers suffer verbal abuse every week, according to the survey, while 68% say the crisis has worsened since Covid.

Almost 800 workers, including janitors, caterers, admin staff, cleaners and classroom assistants working from early years to high schools, detailed the physical and verbal abuse suffered at work in the poll.

Only one in four workers feel completely safe at work and reveal a widespread belief that not enough is being done to protect them, according to the union which has more than 8000 members in Scotland’s schools.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser in public services, said the Scottish Government must ensure a forthcoming summit ordered by education secretary Jenny Gilruth finds ways of ensuring staff are properly protected.

“This survey reveals the sheer scale of the violence and abuse faced by our members working in Scotland’s schools.

“That is bad enough but the failure of management to protect staff, reassure them this crisis is being taken seriously and deliver effective training and reporting procedures is equally alarming.

“If these incidents are not even being reported, they cannot be investigated and nothing will change.

“No one should go to work expecting to be punched, kicked, bit, and spat on. No one should go to work expecting to suffer verbal abuse.

“It is shocking that so many staff in our schools are being subject to this abusive behaviour on a daily basis and just as shocking that their managers are failing to properly record these incidents never mind investigate them. It cannot go on.

“This summit must be more than a talking shop. Staff need to know that every possible measure will be taken to protect them from violence and that, if it still occurs, the most robust reporting and investigative procedures are in place to ensure effective action.

“This is a national emergency and the authorities must take emergency action.”

The survey reveals almost half, 47%, of the support staff taking part do not believe managers take the issue of violence against workers seriously while 63% have had no training in defusing potentially violent situations.

It suggests two thirds of incidents are never recorded while three out of four say they receive no feedback if they do report an incident.

A third have suffered physical injury, one in five have had to take time off work because of violence while 40% of victims needed medical assistance.

Some have been attacked by parents but 93% have been targeted by pupils.

Many of support staff are among the lowest paid workers in Scotland’s councils and are among those working in schools and early years preparing to take strike action next month after rejecting a pay offer which, they say, does not come close to inflation.