Union clashes with local authority after teachers’ assault allegations

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:

Eleven teachers at a special school in Edinburgh have been sent home without pay after refusing to teach a group of pupils who they say assaulted and abused them repeatedly.

Their union, the NASUWT, accused the council of “bullying and intimidating” staff rather than supporting them in a dangerous workplace.

A source at the school, Kaimes, in the Liberton area, told the Edinburgh Evening News that “chaos” broke out recently, with chairs and signs thrown at teachers, causing injuries, and police to be called in.

Education secretary John Swinney was due to meet union leaders after talks with the council broke down. Earlier this year members balloted for industrial action short of a strike by refusing to teach or supervise eight pupils who they believe pose a risk to health, safety and welfare. The move is believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland.

“They refused to teach them because they’d been assaulted so many times,” said the school source. “There’s just no control.”

The eight students reportedly spent last week in a class together with seven pupil support assistants.

“The headteacher told the teachers on Monday morning they weren’t allowed in the school. This is the first time this has ever happened in Scotland. A teacher has refused to teach one kid before but never eight,” added the source.

But Edinburgh council said the teachers’ move discriminated against disabled children. “You cannot pick and choose which disabled children you provide a service for,” a spokeswoman said.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said the council’s action was “one of the most disturbing cases I have ever experienced of an employer failing in its duty of care”.

She said: “The teachers, and indeed other pupils at the school have, month after month, faced violent physical assaults, a constant stream of verbal abuse and threats and malicious allegations. Equipment has been smashed and classrooms trashed.

“Rather than supporting the teachers to deal with these pupils, Edinburgh City Council instead has embarked on a campaign of aggressive and punitive actions towards the teachers, simply because they have dared to stand up for what is right.”

Staff experienced with working with children with special needs have been brought in to cover the absentees. The council has written to parents to update them on the situation.

A council spokesman said: “As a local authority, we have a duty to provide education to all children in Edinburgh. An improvement action plan for Kaimes School has been developed in consultation with staff and subject to external expert scrutiny. This is in the very early stages of being implemented and we would urge everyone to work with us as we take this plan forward. We cannot have a situation where staff decide who they are and who they are not willing to teach as this would be contrary to their terms of employment.”


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