Tuesday, 16 June 2015
Zero tolerance, training and involving staff are key to dealing with violence in schools
Glasgow City’s Sylvia Haughney, a support for learning instructor for 34 years, told delegates: “Staff in mainstream school may find it hard to understand that when an ASN colleague has been slapped six times during the course of the day or kicked 10 times the next day, that somehow this can be normal despite it being entirely unacceptable.”
Susan Kennedy, speaking for the Service Groups Executive, quoted one school support worker with almost ten years experience told us that they would leave the profession if they had another job to go to “I have been physically assaulted twice to the point where I ended up in hospital and was forced to take time off work, and other colleagues have ended up in similar situations. Not only is this damaging to staff morale, but it is incredibly disruptive to pupils and constantly affects their ability to learn."
Sylvia called for more training in ‘Promoting Positive Behaviour’ but also stressed that the staff who know the pupils need to be at the centre of risk assessments.
“Risk assessment is only credible when it takes account of the support staff’s knowledge of individual pupils. Staff are not always consulted and rarely have access to these documents”, said Sylvia.
“Staffing cuts and school closures have exacerbated the situation placing more stress on staff and our members.”
Susan Kennedy reported on developments in Scotland. In Scotland UNISON’S Education Issues Group were recently invited to sit on the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS), this only came about when speakers from the group came along to UNISON’s National School Support Seminar last year in Glasgow when it became apparent that no school support staff had been involved with a recent restorative practices report in Scotland.
The group made up of various educational stakeholders from the Scottish Government, Education Scotland’s Rights, Support and Wellbeing Team, specialist’s, COSLA and union reps from teacher unions and UNISON.
Its focus is on positive relationships, sharing good practice and adopting behaviour, respect and anti-bullying initiatives within all educational settings in Scotland.
UNISON has recently published a practical guide for school support staff on managing difficult behaviour in schools, written by a behaviour expert. This will be a useful tool for members to help raise the issue at a local level.