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Now it's zero tolerance for attacks on teachers

STAFF should own up if they suffer at the hands of violent pupils, West Dunbartonshire says.

In new guidelines, which the council believes could be a blueprint for other areas of Scotland, the definition of violence has been extended to cover "any incident which causes a person stress, humiliation or physical hurt". This is intended to encourage staff who may be under pressure to regard an incident as "trivial and not really serious" to come forward.

The unions hope that the guidelines will end the "shame and blame culture" which leads to teachers feeling that violent incidents are their fault. In recent weeks a guidance teacher doing lunchtime supervision in the playground of Clydebank High was attacked by a member of the public and a primary teacher allegedly assaulted by a pupil.

The education department set up a working party in response to teacher claims that they were being pressured into disregarding serious vilence and that the situation was being exacerbated by Government targets to cut absenteeism and exclusions.

Jan Cleife, president of West Dunbartonshire local association of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said that a recent union survey had shown that teachers feel the Government's social inclusion agenda has led to an increase in"all kinds of abuse".

The new guidelines aim to promote "a relationship of mutual respect between staff and pupils based on a shared understanding of the parameters of acceptable behaviour within that relationship".

There is advice on preventative strategies, support for victim and perpetrator and a commitment to staff training. Additional guidelines are included for early years and special needs establishments.

The council is to send its guidelines to the Scottish Executive's discipline task group, chaired by the Education Minister, which is due to report in mid-June.

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