By Bill Heaney
Shock figures, dragged out of the SNP government with a Freedom of Information request, have revealed there were almost 30,000 attacks on school teachers by students.
And that 130 of these incidents took place in West Dunbartonshire and 404 in Argyll and Bute, which includes Helensburgh and the Lochside.
The “white board jungle” scenario was uncovered by Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP, who described the figures as “incredibly concerning”.
The actual number of assaults since 2016/17 is 29,439, which is an increase of 37%, from 8,500 in 2016/17 to 11,627 in 2018/19.
Dundee recorded 1,094 incidents last year – the most of any local authority – while the numbers for West Dunbartonshire are low by comparison. Argyll’s numbers are worryingly high.
Clockwise: McColl, Wishart, Conaghan, Baillie and Swinney.
The figures come against a drop in the number of specialist support teachers. Scottish Government figures show the number of ASN teachers are at a record low of 2,862. That compares with 3,942 in 2009.
“Meanwhile the number of pupils recorded as having an additional support need has increased by 68% since 2012.
Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton and Lomond, told The Democrat: “‘It’s shocking that since 2016/17, there were almost 30,000 attacks on school teachers by students with 130 incidents taking place in West Dunbartonshire. No one should have to go to work worrying that they might be assaulted.
“Whilst it’s positive to note that there has been a drop in the number of incidents locally in the last year from 55 to 31, these figures still are not good enough.
“We know that currently there are 2,862 specialist staff, compared with 3,942 in 2009 and with a 68% increase in students with ASN since 2012, students may not be getting the right level of support.
“Teachers work hard day in day out, to make sure all children get the best education they can. But this is being hampered by the drop in ASN staff, making their job more difficult.
“Schools must be places where staff and students feel safe and confident to learn, so that students can get the best chance to succeed.
“What’s needed now is for the Education Secretary [John Swinney SNP] to outline how he and the Scottish Government will tackle this problem.
“As a first step they clearly need to invest more in recruiting ASN support staff and supporting local councils and schools better.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart: “Teachers and pupils are being let down. Nobody should have to go to work with a reasonable expectation that they might be assaulted.
“Teaching staff have been the victim of attacks on almost 30,000 occasions since 2016/17. These are incredibly concerning figures and many represent vulnerable pupils who are not getting the support they need.
“Teachers work day in day out to make sure children are given every opportunity to achieve their potential and get on in life, but that has been made harder by the loss of valuable specialist support staff from every school who work closely with pupils, some with complex needs.
“We will never be able to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life unless we make sure that schools are places where both pupils and staff feel comfortable, confident and ready to learn.
“The Scottish Government must lay out how it will support local authorities and schools in tackling this problem and reverse the unacceptable decrease in support staff numbers on its watch.”
West Dunbartonshire Council’s SNP leader Jonathan McColl nor education spokesperson Karen Conaghan any other member of the SNP locally would comment on these figures to The Democrat, which is being boycotted by the SNP locally for asking to have the sound turned up on the audio system in the council’s Church Street chambers.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests asked: How many violent attacks, by either parents/other members of the public, or pupils or other staff members on your local authority’s teaching staff were recorded in (a) 2016/17, (b) 2017/18, (c) 2018/19, (d) 2019/20 to date.
Blackboard Jungle is a 1955 social commentary film about teachers in an interracial inner-city school, based on the novel The Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter and adapted for the screen and directed by Richard Brooks. It is remembered for its innovative use of rock and roll in its soundtrack and for the unusual breakout role of a black cast member, future Oscar winner and star Sidney Poitier as a rebellious, yet musically talented student.
In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.