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Violence and verbal abuse of teachers is at risk of becoming normalised in some Scottish schools, teachers are warning, exacerbated by the rise of so-called ‘restorative’ approaches to pupil behaviour management which are eroding teachers’ authority and making them equally culpable for pupils’ behaviour.

Members of NASUWT Scotland-The Teachers’ Union are warning that the poor implementation of restorative behaviour schemes is putting both the learning of pupils and the welfare and safety of teachers at risk.

Restorative behaviour programmes typically centre on the use of restorative conversations between teachers and pupils to address incidents of poor behaviour, in lieu of other sanctions. While the NASUWT does not necessarily disagree with the principle of such schemes, the Union is concerned that in too many schools the way such schemes are being implemented is effectively making teachers responsible for pupils’ behaviour and allowing school managements to abdicate their responsibilities for addressing pupil behaviour.

NASUWT Scotland members will call for clear guidelines to be introduced for all schools to support teachers in maintaining discipline and protect them from violence and abuse at the Union’s Scotland Annual Conference, which will be held virtually tomorrow (Saturday).

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said:

“In too many schools verbal and physical abuse against teachers is going unchallenged. There is a growing culture in schools of ‘blame the teacher’ rather than holding pupils accountable for their behaviour and this is being aided and abetted in some cases by the misuse and abuse of restorative behaviour policies, which are becoming synonymous in too many cases with no punishment or sanctions for unacceptable behaviour.

“While good behaviour management policies encourage pupils to reflect on their own behaviour, they also have in place clear and consistently enforced sanctions for verbal abuse or physical violence and make clear to all pupils that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Evidence shows that positive pupil behaviour stems from a whole school approach where managements lead and support staff in maintaining good discipline.

“No teacher should go to work with the expectation that they will be either verbally or physically abused. All teachers are entitled to dignity at work and a safe working environment.

“Teachers are being disempowered by the failure of government to ensure that across the country, behaviour policies are supporting teachers in maintaining high standards of discipline.

“It’s about time the Scottish Government made strong and unequivocal statements about the rights of teachers to a safe working environment, and took action to ensure that these rights are being delivered.”
 

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