Whiteboard jungle reports follow decision to send pupils back to school
By Bill Heaney
A senior Labour MSP has asked the government what action it plans to take to support teachers with the concerns they currently face following reports from their unions that there is a culture of “fear and anxiety” across education.
Alex Rowley raised the matter with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday afternoon.
Ms Sturgeon told him: “In the past year, teachers have done an extraordinary job in the most challenging of circumstances, and they have refocused their work to support pupils in a range of different ways.
“We recognise the pressure on schools and on all teachers at all times to work in a safe, positive, respectful and supportive environment.
“We have already committed more than £400 million to education recovery, and we have introduced a support package for schools that includes a very important focus on mental health support for staff. That is in addition to existing guidance for local authorities and schools on managing behaviour.
“We will continue to put the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the forefront of our recovery plans.
“We look forward to continuing to work constructively with stakeholders to ensure that everybody nurtures an environment in our schools that has at its core the highest quality of learning and teaching.”
Mr Rowley replied: “I am sure that, like me, the First Minister is worried that the NASUWT said this week that violence and the abuse of teachers are “becoming normalised”.
“It also revealed that a union survey found that 53 per cent of teachers considered leaving the profession in the past year feeling demoralised, unsupported and unrecognised.
“Does the Government recognise those concerns? Does the Government accept that among the actions that must be taken is a year-on-year substantial increase in school budgets and that we also need to see significant increases in the number of teachers and teaching assistants across the school estate?”
However, Ms Sturgeon said: “Education spending has risen in every single one of the past four years, and significant additional resource has been provided to local authorities in the face of Covid, supporting a range of activities including the provision of additional teachers in our schools.
“Of course, I recognise the concerns of teachers and so many others after what has been the most difficult, challenging and bruising of years, when we have all had to cope with the implications of Covid in different ways.
“It is really important that we listen to and understand those concerns and that we respond in a variety of ways.
“No teacher should have to suffer verbal or physical abuse in school, and nobody should ever accept violence becoming normalised in our schools.
“I am sure that the education secretary will be more than happy to discuss those concerns in more detail with the trade union concerned.
“It is important that we support teachers in a range of different ways. We are doing that, and we will continue to talk to teaching unions about what more can be done to support teachers, as they do a very important job on behalf of us all.”
West Dunbartonshire Council have refused to confirm or deny the reports of violence in local classrooms.