THE councillor in charge of education in the Borders has promised to tackle pupil violence towards teachers.
Sandy Aitchison was responding to Freedom of Information statistics that showed one primary school teacher or member of staff was verbally or physically attacked every day in the last full academic year.
A total of 244 assaults against primary and secondary staff were reported in 2011/12 in the Borders, up from just 54 the previous year.
The majority were recorded in primary schools, jumping dramatically from 45 in 2010/11 to 205 in 2011/12. In 2009/10, the primary school number stood at just 30, comprising 15 verbal and 15 physical acts of violence.
At high schools, the figure rose from nine in 2010/11 to 39 in 2011/12.
However, SBC’s response to the FoI request does not show at which of the region’s nine high schools and 63 primaries the incidents took place, or any details on whether any form of weapon was used.
Councillor Aitchison, executive member for education, told TheSouthern: “During the last administration I remember this coming up with teacher’s representatives and SBC decided to change the way these incidents were recorded. We knew that this would result in an increase of recorded incidents.
“However, no teacher should have to suffer any form of abuse.
“Our teachers do a difficult job and our results show that they do it well.
“The huge majority of parents and children are supportive of their teachers and our management teams do what is necessary to create a safe learning experience for our customers, the children, both in primary and secondary schools.
“We are, however, not complacent and know that constant monitoring is important to identify from where the problems arise.”
While Borders Conservative MSP John Lamont welcomed the council’s new monitoring system, he was concerned by the “worrying trend” of violent behaviour among primary school pupils.
He added: “It is important that we crack down on these assaults as soon as possible and teach young people that these actions are totally unacceptable. There is no room for verbal or physical abuse in any of our schools, and teachers deserve to have a safe and friendly environment in which to work as possible.”
But former education chief George Turnbull believes Borders schools are safe places to work.
He told us: “Freedom of information figures can be frustrating as they don’t show all the facts. “There is a better monitoring system now in place which means teachers can now record incidents easier.
“If you look solely at the primary school figures, they have gone up almost five-fold. But you have to consider that there are 63 primary schools in the Borders.
“And when you look at the high school incidents, many could be to do with just four or five pupils across the Borders.”
Mr Turnbull noted that a new anti-bullying policy – based on the recommendations of a Youth Commissioners report – is set to come into force at the start of the new academic year in 2013, which he believes will contribute to better relations between staff and pupils.
He said: “The Youth Commissioners report on bullying has around 30 recommendations which are set to be implemented by the council.
“It is loosely associated with school violence figures, as it promotes respect between teachers and young people.
“It will be useful and Heriot-Watt University has already shown an interest in using it themselves.”
An SBC spokesman added: “This (increase in school violence) is actually down to the way we monitor these types of incidents, as we have made improvements to our reporting system.
“However, we continue to closely monitor incidents of this nature and take appropriate action.”
TheSouthern revealed last year that 10 pupils had been found in possession of offensive weapons in the region’s schools in 2010/11.
That figure was up from just four pupils in both primary and high schools in 2009/10.
In secondary schools, the weapons recovered included three knives, five ball bearing guns, one rock, one wooden stick, one scriber and one weapon described as “improvised”.
And in primary schools, three knives, one hammer, one screwdriver, one pen knife and one craft knife were found. SBC did not reveal where the weapons were recovered.