Fife school teachers reveal violence and abuse from pupils in survey - 'worst figures we have ever seen' says union

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A snapshot survey of teachers has claimed student violence and abuse towards teachers is worse in Fife than the Scottish average.

Nearly half of teachers in the Kingdom who took part revealed they have experienced physical abuse or violence from students in the last year - and nearly all had experienced verbal abuse.

The findings show the region is slightly worse than the national average, and more than half of surveyed teachers locally are seriously considering leaving the profession. The national survey from the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) featured 358 members cross Scotland - 62 of which were in Fife.

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Mike Corbett, NASUWT national official for Scotland, says the survey built on what the union already knows - pupil violence and behaviour is getting worse.

The survey revealed the extent of the abuse and violence against teachers - pictured posed by models (Pic: TSPL)The survey revealed the extent of the abuse and violence against teachers - pictured posed by models (Pic: TSPL)
The survey revealed the extent of the abuse and violence against teachers - pictured posed by models (Pic: TSPL)

“I think we’ve known for some time that behaviour has been problematic in schools,” Mr Corbett said. “The figures we’ve shared are certainly the worst that we have ever seen. Something that was already a problem and a concern and something that already needed to be addressed is - you could argue - is really getting to a crisis level now. The urgency in getting it addressed properly is immediate.”

The survey report gives an insight into what teachers are experiencing in classrooms. It revealed that 45% in Fife have experienced physical abuse or violence from pupils in the last 12 months compared to only 39% across Scotland. Fife teachers who have experienced violence say they have been hit or punched (16%); kicked (11%); spat at (8%) and head-butted (5%). However, 47% said they have been shoved or barged in the past year.

When it comes to non-physical violence, 97% have experienced verbal abuse from pupils; slightly higher than 94% s across the rest of the country. Backchat and rudeness are the most common verbal issues, but 95% of teachers in Fife reported being sworn at by students.

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The survey also concluded that part of the issue is related to how violent misbehaviour is dealt with in schools - 76% of responding teachers said their school culture perpetuates the belief that poor student behaviour is just part of the job and that teachers should expect to receive abuse and violence.

Following the survey, Mr Corbett sat down with Fife Council leader David Ross (Labour) to discuss what more can be done to protect teachers and tackle pupils’ behaviour.

The union official said: “We’re looking for clear guidance for schools, headteachers, and teachers themselves about what is and what is not acceptable, how things should be reported and how things should be followed up.”

Cllr Ross called it a “positive” meeting and added: “It was recognised that Fife has developed a robust system to report and record incidents in order that the appropriate policies and approaches can be put in place to support our staff, pupils and families. We were advised that this is not the same across all local authorities.”

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According to Cllr Ross, the fact that school staff are encouraged to report any incident means that more NASUWT members in Fife were comfortable in providing this information in response to the survey: “The welfare and wellbeing of everyone in our schools is our first priority and all our schools place the importance of relationships at the centre of what they do. Any form of violence towards teachers and pupils is unacceptable and we’re committed to safe working practices and training for our staff.”

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