Teachers at risk over ineffective approach to problem pupils, says union

By Laura Paterson, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland

More than two-thirds of teachers responding to a union survey have said they believe poor pupil behaviour is a widespread problem at their school.

Almost 700 teachers responded to the survey teaching union NASUWT carried out in Scotland between February and this month.

A total of 67% of the 673 respondents said poor pupil behaviour was a widespread problem at their school.

NASUWT believes ways of dealing with the disruptive pupils in schools such as restorative behaviour strategies have left teachers “increasingly vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse”.

These strategies may include “restorative conversations” with children in response to poor behaviour.

The union has also criticised pupils with additional support needs being placed in mainstream schools without the support they need.

NASUWT members from Scotland moved a motion at the union’s annual conference in Belfast calling for all schools to adopt a zero tolerance approach to violent and disruptive pupil behaviour.

The motion also states key contributors to an “increase in pupil indiscipline” include the “deplorable” introduction of behaviour management strategies, such as restorative behaviour; a presumption of mainstreaming for pupils with behavioural problems and “cuts to special provision, specialist support services and funding”.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, called for action to protect teachers (Paul Faith/PA)

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “Teachers in too many schools across the country are being disempowered by a culture of blame the teacher, rather than putting in place strategies to support them in the face of violent and disruptive behaviour.

“Too many pupils with behavioural issues are being placed in schools without the specialist support they need, with teachers being expected to pick up the pieces.

“The restorative approach to behaviour in too many schools has become synonymous with no consequences for pupils and consequently teachers are increasingly vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse.

“No one should go to work with the expectation of being physically or verbally abused and yet for too many teachers across Scotland this is now their day to day reality.

“It’s about time the Government and employers exercised their legal duty of care for their staff.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said:  “Research indicates that the vast majority of staff in schools report pupils as being generally well behaved; and use of restorative and solution orientated approaches increased.

“In June 2018, in response to the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research, the Scottish Government published new guidance.

“This document set out the next steps, outcomes and priority actions to support local authorities, establishments, practitioners and partners to further improve the ethos and culture, and relationships and behaviour in Scottish schools as identified by the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools.”