New Scottish government research shows that the biggest impact of pupil’s behavioural challenges falls on schools’ support staff, who are the lowest paid and receive the least training and support, says UNISON.
The government’s Behaviour in Scottish schools: research report 2023 shows that 86% of support staff encounter low level disruptive behaviour every day, with 66% experiencing verbal abuse and 59% experiencing physical aggression on a regular basis.
The union say that this new government report supports what UNISON members working in schools have been telling their union. That the lowest paid, mostly women support staff are the ones who are expected to deal with pupils with the most challenging behaviour.
The government report is based on surveys and interviews with head teachers and teachers, and focus groups with classroom-based support staff. The report confirms that the incidence of serious disruptive behaviours has increased since the last report in 2016. There has also been a notable increase in primary school support staff saying they are negatively impacted by verbal abuse, physical aggression and violence towards themselves and other staff.
UNISON say that support staff were more likely than teachers to report that serious disruptive behaviours have the greatest negative impact on them.
UNISON Scotland chair of the education issues group, Lorraine Thompson said: “No-one should have to face violence and abusive behaviour at their work and if they do they need to be properly supported to deal with it.
Yet in our schools in Scotland, it is the lowest paid mostly women support staff who deal with challenging and disruptive behaviour every day.
The money announced by the Scottish government is wholly inadequate for the challenges their own research outlines. We need substantial investment not only in our schools but also the wider support teams that children and young people need.
UNISON Scotland regional manager, Kay Sillars said: “UNISON have consistently raised violence and abuse of school support staff with employers and government. Most support staff experience difficult behaviour every day. It is not acceptable, now that we have the evidence to back up what we know is a growing problem we need to see government funding and action to help schools deal with it.
Support staff need to be provided with training, support and time to fully participate in developing strategies to support the pupils they are working with. But we also need increased investment in youth clubs, family social work and educational psychiatrists. UNISON are raising these findings with the government.”
Notes for editors
Read the UNISON Scotland briefing on the Scottish government report here
Read the Scottish government: Behaviour in Scottish schools report here