Southern Region

GMB welcome Swindon Council policy on managing violence against school staffShare on Twitter Share on Facebook

Posted: 08 Nov 2017

GMB, the trade union for school support staff, welcomes the introduction of a detailed policy for Swindon schools, which is designed to address the rising level of violence and abuse directed at school staff by pupils and parents.

Earlier this year GMB carried out a snapshot survey of school staff in Swindon that showed 42% of them had experienced violence from pupils during the preceding 18 months.

The snapshot survey also showed that in mainstream schools 25% had been spat at and 46% had suffered verbal abuse. In special schools for pupils who need additional support, 94% of staff had suffered violence.

GMB initiated a survey of school support staff after a GMB member had their finger dislocated by an 8 year old pupil and felt the school’s response was inadequate.

Andy Newman, GMB Branch Secretary said: “Following the survey, GMB were extremely concerned that 25% of staff reported they were afraid or apprehensive at work, but when they report incidents or concerns to schools management, half of our members reported that the response was inadequate. GMB felt that school leadership teams did not have sufficiently clear guidance on how to deal with violence and aggressive behaviour towards staff.

“We then held detailed discussions with Swindon Borough Council’s Health and Safety team, and we were surprised to discover that not only did Swindon Borough Council have no policy relating to violence against school staff, but we were unable to find any council in the country that had an adequate policy.

“GMB are delighted that Swindon Borough Council’s Health and safety team took the issue very seriously, and the new policy being rolled out to schools is a big step forward.

“The policy unambiguously states that violence, and aggressive and anti-social behaviour towards school staff is unacceptable, and sets out in detail the responsibilities of school governors, head teachers and other school managers, and of staff themselves, to manage and reduce risks. GMB believes a safer environment is also a better environment for learning.

“In line with health and safety best practice, not only should all incidents be reported, but for very serious incidents where there is a potential for a life changing injury, then “near misses” should also be reported. Schools should escalate serious incidents, and near misses, to the Swindon Borough Council health and safety team for support and advice.”

Contact: Andy Newman on 0754 0859 227

Notes to editors

1) GMB conducted a survey of school support staff in Swindon in February 2017.  This group includes teaching assistants, caretakers, office staff, bursars, librarians and cleaners.

42% report they have experienced violence in the last 18 months, 25% have been spat at, and 46% have suffered verbal abuse. Only 42% of staff say they have experienced no incidents in special schools, 94% report they have experienced violence in the last 18 months, 65% have been spat at, and 76% have suffered verbal abuse. Only 6% of staff say they have experienced no incidents across all schools, 66% report that they have witnessed violence against other staff, 28% have witnessed staff being spat at, and 56% have witnessed verbal abuse. Only 25% have witnessed no incidents of staff in mainstream schools, 92% of support staff report that there are pupils in the school who they feel need to be in a special school 25% of staff in Swindon schools report that they are sometimes afraid or apprehensive at work; and 16% of staff have reported that they are afraid to management.  When incidents have been reported to management, only 50% of staff feel that they are happy with the response. Where staff have reported that they are afraid or apprehensive to management, only 49% have been satisfied with the response.

GMB only surveyed school support staff, but anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more incidents against support staff than against teachers, this may partly be because of perceived lower status in the school, but also because it is typically school support staff required to deal with pupils behaving aggressively.

2) Details of the survey: The survey was initiated after a GMB member had their finger dislocated by an year old, and GMB felt that the school’s response was inadequate. GMB is the largest union in Swindon for school support staff. The survey was conducted by hard copy and through Survey Monkey, a professional on-line survey tool. The survey achieved a 27% response rate, with 86% of those responding being GMB members. 75% responded on-line, and 25% by returning a hard copy. There was no significant difference in the results between Academies and Swindon Borough Council schools.