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Fifth of female teachers experience physical abuse every week, union says

Female teachers experience a higher level of abuse in schools, a union has said (Alamy/PA)
Female teachers experience a higher level of abuse in schools, a union has said (Alamy/PA)

A report from a trade union claiming female teachers in Scotland are experiencing a higher frequency of abuse from pupils has disclosed incidents where pupils have threatened to shoot teachers.

Research from teaching union, NASUWT Scotland, shows that the overall frequency of pupil abuse towards female teachers is higher than male teachers.

A similar percentage of female and male teachers reported they had experienced abuse from pupils in the last 12 months (38% of female teachers and 39% of male teachers) but female teachers faced a higher frequency of physical and verbal abuse.

In a briefing prepared for MSPs titled Gender Based Violence Experienced by Teachers in Scotland, 358 teachers responded in total, of whom 237 were women.

Just under one fifth (19%) of the female teachers said they had experienced physical abuse “a few times a week” compared to 3% of male teachers.

Six per cent of female teachers said they experienced physical abuse once per day compared with 3% of male teachers.

Almost four in 10 (39%) of female teachers, compared to 29% of male teachers, said they had been pushed and shoved in the last 12 months.

The report also shared examples of incidents in schools where male pupils had threatened female teachers with extreme acts of violence.

One anonymous teacher said a pupil told another teacher that if he “lived in the USA, he would get a gun and shoot me and if that didn’t work, he would run me over”.

The teacher claimed police did not take the claim seriously because it had not been a “direct threat”.

Another teacher, who was also kept anonymous in the report, said that a pupil posted on social media about shooting her with a BB gun.

She told NASUWT: “The community police officer – based in school every day – tried to persuade me that there was no evidence that the pupil, who had posted on social media threats to shoot me with his BB gun, even possessed such a weapon, despite other pupils giving evidence of having seen it and being able to describe it, as well as the manner in which the pupil concealed it in his coat when he brought it to school on a previous occasion.

“The police officer had even emphasised to me how long he had spent talking to the pupil about why bringing guns to school was not a good idea.”

The report also suggested the prevalence of violence was affecting the majority (85% of female and 81% of male) of teachers’ morale and enthusiasm for the job.

Less than half of respondents (43% female, 44% male) said they reported all of the incidents to their manager in their school or college and that there had been a “tolerance” and “expectation” of violence towards staff and other pupils.

The union said gendered violence towards female teachers was a “key issue” in Scottish education as women make up around three quarters of the workforce.

NASUWT called for “visible and strong leadership” from the Scottish Government on the matter.

Jane Peckham, NASUWT deputy general secretary, said: “We know from this survey, our casework and previous research, that sexual harassment and sexism towards both female teachers and pupils in schools and colleges is commonplace and that the majority of incidents fail to be reported or dealt with effectively.

“We cannot hope to make our schools safe and secure places to learn and work unless the gendered element of managing pupil behaviour is also addressed.”

Mike Corbett, NASUWT national official Scotland, said: “Sexist and misogynistic abuse and harassment of female teachers and pupils in our schools is a daily occurrence.

“What women and girls are experiencing in schools is a reflection of a wider societal culture, which is why it cannot be left to schools alone to tackle this issue.

“Ministers and employers have a responsibility to step up. Women and girls should not continue to have their safety put at risk and have their daily lives blighted by sexist abuse.”

The Scottish Government and local authority umbrella body, Cosla, have been approached for comment.