Fife education staff report rise in physical violence and threats

Fife Council said all incidents are treated 'seriously'.
Fife Council said all incidents are treated 'seriously'.

Fife education staff must be given more protection against increasing violence, councillors have said.

In 2017/18, Fife Council education and children’s services employees reported 970 incidents of physical violence, aggression or threats, up from 672 the year before.

There was also a jump in the amount of verbal threats against employees, from 173 to 275.

Liberal Democrat councillors Jonny Tepp and James Calder believe this has led to an increase in staff absence.

Cllr Tepp, Fife Liberal Democrat spokesperson for assets, property and facilities, said: “Figures presented showed that Fife teachers had faced around 1000 physical incidents and we were told that the fact that this was a rise of 45 per cent on the previous year mainly reflected better reporting systems.

“However, looking at staff absence linked to physical and verbal violence leading to absence from work shows a worrying increase too. There were seven cases in 2016, six cases in 2017 but a jump to 16 cases in 2018. These are small numbers but they reflect the tip of the iceberg and show that the pressures on staff are increasing.”

Cllr Calder, the Fife Liberal Democrat education spokesman, called on Fife Council to do more to make sure that staff were safe.

“It is unacceptable that any teachers face violence, let alone 1000,” he said. “It is deeply worrying that the numbers of staff facing a level of violence necessitating absence from work is also increasing.

“Fife Council needs to take action to address this trend and ensure that our teachers are safe.”

Shelagh McLean, head of education and children services, said: “My understanding is that this data refers to all posts, not solely teaching staff.

“We treat any incidents involving any of our staff seriously.

“By working closely with trade unions and other professional bodies we’ve mechanisms in place to reduce incidents and where necessary, support any member of our staff who may be effected.”