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Primary support staff bear the brunt of pupil violence

Reports of pupils ‘punching’, ‘kicking’ and ‘headbutting’ staff have increased

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Reports of pupils ‘punching’, ‘kicking’ and ‘headbutting’ staff have increased

More than a quarter of primary school support staff report pupils have been physically aggressive and violent towards them during the course of the previous year, including “squaring up”, “punching”, “kicking”, “headbutting” and “using weapons”.

The figures – revealed in new research published by the Scottish government into behaviour in schools last week – show that violence and aggression towards primary support staff is at its highest level since the government started to collect this data in 2006.

Twenty-seven per cent of primary support staff who took part in a survey, which was conducted last year, reported they had experienced physical aggression, including “pushing” and “squaring up”, in the past 12 months, while 26 per cent of primary support staff reported they had experienced physical violence, including “punching”, “kicking” and “headbutting”.

Of the 400 primary support staff surveyed, 11 per cent said that they had experienced six or more incidences of pupil violence in the previous year. Around 13 individuals said the violence they had experienced involved the use of a weapon.

More than 4,000 headteachers, teachers and support staff across primary and secondary took part in Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research 2016. Previous waves took place in 2006, 2009 and 2012.

In 2012, just 11 per cent of support staff reported being victims of pupil violence, while 13 per cent reported they had experienced aggression from pupils.

The figures for violent incidents involving secondary support staff were low by comparison; primary teachers were also less likely to report pupil violence or aggression towards them

Overall, support staff perceived pupil behaviour to be worse than teachers or headteachers. Seventy-nine per cent of primary support staff reported that all or most pupils were generally well-behaved during lessons, as compared with 99 per cent of primary headteachers and 87 per cent of teachers.

The researchers suggested that support staff perceived pupil behaviour to be worse because they “often work with the most challenging individuals or small groups”. They also suggested that training for support staff in behaviour management could be an issue.

A Scottish government spokesman said that no one wanted to see incidences of violent and aggressive behaviour in schools. The spokesman added that the vast majority of pupils were “generally well-behaved” and that violence remained “very rare”.

He continued: “Although the vast majority of the research findings are positive, we recognise that the report highlights areas where improvements can be made.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 22 December edition of Tes Scotland. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTes Scotland magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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