July 31, 2008

Schoolteachers ‘Work in Fear’ As Exclusions Rise for Fifth Year

SCOTLAND'S schools are being gripped by escalating violence by pupils and soaring numbers of exclusions, according to the latest figures.

The number of pupils excluded for physical assaults rose by 14 per cent to more than 7,300 in the past year.

Government figures also revealed the overall number of youngsters suspended or expelled from school rose by 4 per cent during the same period.

There were 44,794 exclusions from schools - the fifth successive annual increase since 2003.

Nearly a third of exclusions were for general or persistent disobedience. Some 265 involved verbal abuse of staff and 16 per cent involved insolent or offensive behaviour. About 22,800 different pupils were excluded during the year.

The Scottish Government has said that, where a child is excluded from school, it has been failed by the system and early intervention policies should help to set children on the path to success.

However, the Scottish Tories say disruptive pupils should be sent to units with specially trained staff to teach them skills, discipline and respect.

The latest data shows more than 600 assaults were carried out on Edinburgh schools staff last year. Eight incidents were reported to be sexually motivated.

The city comes second only to Glasgow in Scotland's tally of school violence.

In East Lothian, staff were also under attack, with 161 physical assaults reported over the year. And in West Lothian there were 129 assaults.

The vast majority of school assaults in Edinburgh - 527 - took place in special schools. A further 66 took place in primary schools, with 13 in secondary schools and two assaults even recorded in nursery schools.

Attacks included a primary teacher who was stabbed with a paintbrush by a pupil, another who was hit in the eye with a bag and then punched, and a third who was punched by a pupil, who then ripped her clothes.

Teaching unions have warned that their members fear a rising tide of violence in Lothian schools, with teachers afraid to defend themselves for fear of litigation.

Police have also been assigned to schools across Scotland which are believed to be the biggest trouble spots.

At the start of the last school year, there were almost 30 in place and plans were being drawn up to extend the scheme.

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