OPINION: Teaching staff now see violent behaviour as the norm

By Jim Halfpenny, of the EIS

The most recent figures from West Dunbartonshire Council (October – December 2022) show that there were 270 incidents of violence, aggression, fright and shock in our local schools. With 228 of them against employees and 42 against  pupils.

Where, in any other area of the Council, would this be tolerated? Who among our elected representatives and senior managers would come to work in the knowledge that they may be assaulted?

Nevertheless, it’s quite common for pupils to verbally abuse a teacher and carry on going to their classes for the rest of the day.

What we and Council Managers know is that this shameful situation is a significant underestimation of the real figures.

Despite the fact that the Council has a legal duty to protect the health and safety of its employees and pupils in a school, staff have come to see this type of violent behaviour as the norm and are exasperated and demoralised by the lack of action by the Council to protect them from serious harm.

This increase in violent behaviour is particularly marked among the youngest children in primary schools where punching, kicking and spitting on staff, at times, is a real concern.

Undoubtedly, the violence of poverty plays a significant part in a child’s response to perceived problems inside and outside of school.

Teachers go to their workplaces to teach – to work with young people to help them grow and develop into successful learners, effective contributors, responsible citizens and confident individuals but they cannot be expected to overcome problems that are fundamental to a society that keeps more than a quarter of its children in poverty.

Staff often feel unsupported when reporting these issues of violence and are made to feel as if they are to blame when things go wrong.

With the quite significant increase in pupils with Additional Support Needs, West Dunbartonshire Council must ensure sufficient funding for additional support wherever this is needed, additional staffing for in-school behaviour bases and units, provision of additional offsite behaviour facilities and a reduction in class sizes in all schools to support better behaviour in the classroom.

Implementing a savage Council cuts budget will only make this situation worse.

Top of page picture shows a classroom in a modern school, complete with white board. But that can be misleading since classrooms are often the setting for pupil violence.

Leave a Reply