Assaults against teachers are much more of a problem in primary schools than in secondaries, according to figures from Tayside, the only region which reports them. The number of incidents recorded in primary schools last session was 53, compared with 12 in secondaries and one in a nursery. In the first six weeks of this session there were 10 incidents, six of them in primaries.
The figures show that the number of incidents in primaries has almost doubled from 27 in 1993-94, when there were only seven in secondaries. That gives point to the letter sent to all directors of education by Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, in which he expressed concern that education authorities are not addressing "this unacceptable and unsavoury aspect" of teachers' working lives.
The Health and Safety Commission had given advice in 1990, including the need for reporting incidents and carrying out research into them, yet authorities have not followed up the advice with sufficient urgency, Mr Smith said.
The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association has sent guidance on teacher safety to all schools. The association points out that reporting violent incidents is "a positive method of assessing the extent of violence and the risks to teachers. An employer must not take the reporting of such incidents to imply a failure by the teacher concerned". Teachers had the right to refer incidents to the police.
The SSTA also calls for improved security in schools, with visitors' passes and other safeguards against unauthorised access. There should be telephones in every part of a school and systems to protect staff working after normal hours. Teachers should be told about pupils with a history of violence or about whose conduct there is cause for concern.
The EIS is considering guidance to members (TESS, last week) and may press authorities about their policies on teacher protection.