By Nicola Croal
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon asked teachers in October last year to write letters to the Scottish government about their teaching experiences.
The call by Sturgeon was made after an anonymous letter was read out in the Scottish Parliament that claimed staff were told to ”keep our mouths shut.”
A number of the letters expressed concerns about physical and verbal assaults in the school grounds. There has also been complaints about increased work overload and a lack of staff to accommodate this.
The Scottish government have released 60 out of 120 of these letters due to a freedom of information request from the Scottish Conservatives party.
One letter stated that: “The best teacher I have ever seen left last year due to paperwork and sheer unmanageable workload… something must be done before there are no teachers left.”
Another teacher wrote about her shocking experience of when she was subject to physical abuse in the classroom. “The class teacher was hit, I was kicked and punched. My amazing support staff were subject to repeated kicks to the stomach and were bitten.”
The UWS newsroom asked the public online whether or not people think that teachers are under too much pressure in the workplace.
The Scottish Conservatives believe that the letters have highlighted the pressures that comes with working in education.
Education Secretary, John Swinney said that the Scottish government is working towards improving conditions in schools for teachers. ”Our refreshed guidance on preventing and managing schools exclusions, published in June 2017, includes guidance on managing challenging behaviour.”
However, these violence issues seem to have been occurring in Scottish schools for quite sometime. A survey ran by the UTL Union in 2016 stated that four in ten teachers had been subject to violence by pupils. A more recent study conducted by the GMB Union in 2018 states that more than 16% of school support staff are first hand experiencing violent attacks in school every week. In a survey participated in by just under 5000 school support staff, more than 2400 participants said that they had experienced violence at work in and 774 participants said they are the victims of abuse as frequently as every week.
Swinney also addressed the complaints about the shortage of staff. ”The number of teachers is the highest since 2010 and we have committed to creating new opportunities for teachers to develop their careers.”
According to the Scottish government figures, there are more students than ever applying to teaching as numbers increase for the third year in a row. Latest statistics reveal that there was almost 4000 new student teachers in Scotland in 2018.
A student teacher, who works in a primary school in North Lanarkshire said: ”I would say that teachers can be quite stretched in the work they have to do due to support staff having to spread themselves thin so sometimes there is quite a lot of pressure. I find that students can sometimes have extra work load with their resources as they have to help teachers as well as sort their own lessons.”
The ‘Voice Scotland’ union for educational professionals have shown their support for violence against school staff with an online confidential survey for teachers to take part in. The survey allows teachers to share their experiences with violence in the workplace and can be found on the ‘Voice Scotland’ Twitter page.