Staff who work with pupils with additional needs in north schools are suffering worrying levels of violence and aggression, according to a new survey by Unison.
In one case, a child picked up a pair of scissors, opened them and held the blade to the side of the staff member’s neck and made verbal threats.
Other staff complaints included a girl punching, kicking and threatening to stab a pencil through their eye, a boy attempting to spray board cleaner in their eyes, toes being stamped on and frequent swearing and spitting.
The union say 88% of their members who responded to the survey have been the target of attacks – but Highland Council pointed out that this was 5.7% of the council’s total number of pupil support assistants and early years practitioners.
Unison also claimed that 63% of staff surveyed felt that the schools were using its inclusion policy – a presumption that pupils with additional needs should be schooled in mainstream schools – as an excuse for not doing anything.
Highland council stressed the sample size of 81 was a very small number, but a spokeswoman agreed that any situation where a member of staff feels threatened or harmed is “unacceptable,” adding: “The council is committed to increase more appropriate or alternative interventions that will reduce such incidents and will continue to work with union representatives for all staff groups working in schools, to provide a safe environment for staff and pupils to teach and learn together.”
She added that the council has a training strategy and specialist services to support all school staff to understand and safely manage the needs of children with additional needs.
As well as a guarantee that the policy of inclusion does not override the safety of staff, Unison wants more support workers to have access and input to risk assessments concerning children with additional support needs.
The union has also asked for support workers to be present when schools meet with experts in the child’s condition, claiming this is generally not the case at present.
They also want two staff present during intimate care procedures, such as toileting, due to staff concerns over children making false accusations.