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Dundee teachers and support workers face 100 assaults involving weapons in a single year

There were 100 attacks involving a weapon or improvised weapon recorded by the council.
There were 100 attacks involving a weapon or improvised weapon recorded by the council.

Weapons have been involved in 100 assaults on Dundee teachers and support workers in a single year, new figures have revealed.

A Freedom of Information request has shown in 2019/20, the last recorded period, 100 attacks involved either a weapon or improvised weapon.

Overall assaults drop

The figures come against the wider backdrop of a large fall in the number of assaults suffered by council staff in the last year, including lockdown and coronavirus restriction periods.

The total number of council staff reporting an assault fell from 1,246 to 730 – a drop of more than 40%.

The figures include all council staff, including teachers, refuse workers, care workers and grounds and building maintenance staff.

The number of teachers and support staff assaulted fell from a high of 1,160 in 2018/19 to 684 in the 2019/2020 school year.

‘Call police’ when teacher is placed under ‘severe threat’

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of teaching union the EIS, said there must be a “zero tolerance approach” to violence or threats.

“It is essential that when serious incidents do occur, they are dealt with swiftly and firmly – this should include police involvement where a teacher has been physically assaulted or placed under severe threat,” he said.

He added that teachers and support staff work extremely hard to ensure a positive and welcoming environment for pupils.

“The vast majority of young people in our schools are positively engaged in their learning and like their teachers deserve to be in a safe and secure environment.”

Larry Flanagan. Dundee.

Conservative North East MSP Bill Bowman said the “incredibly concerning figures” relating to school assaults with weapons highlight the impact of cuts to budgets and a reduction in the number of specialist support staff.

He added that despite a reduction in council employees being assaulted compared to last year, the “shocking” figures were still too high.

“No one should face the prospect of being attacked when they step into their workplace,” he said.

“It’s disgraceful both physical and verbal attacks are happening while people are simply doing their jobs.”

Loss of specialist support staff

Referencing the school assault statistics specifically, Mr Bowman said: “These incredibly concerning figures highlight the negative impact cuts imposed by the SNP have had in schools.

“Teachers and pupils are being badly let down.

“It won’t be achievable to give every child the best possible start in life unless the Scottish Government make sure that schools are places where both pupils and staff feel comfortable, confident and ready to learn.

Bill Bowman MSP.

“It’s clear the loss of specialist support staff who work with pupils, sometimes with complex needs, is being felt in the classroom because they also do terrific work in curbing these incidents.

“Staff need to be given additional support to ensure they feel safe to carry out their duties in the classroom.”

Zero-tolerance approach

A Dundee City Council spokeswoman said: “Council employees should not have to face abuse or violence as they go about their jobs.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to this type of unacceptable behaviour.

“Our employees should be able to work without fear of attack, verbal or physical, and are encouraged to report any incidents of violence.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “All forms of violence are unacceptable and have no place in our schools.

“No teacher should have to suffer abuse in the workplace and we want all pupils to behave in a respectful manner towards their peers and staff.

“We have committed to almost £400m of new funding over this year and next as part of education recovery, funding a range of actions that include the recruitment of over 1,400 additional teachers and 200 additional support staff.”

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