A TEACHING union has insisted efforts to make sure school staff are able to work “safely and securely” must be a priority.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) spoke out after the Barrhead News obtained figures which show incidents of violence towards school staff in East Renfrewshire have rocketed.

There were 122 such incidents recorded in 2013/14 but that total had grown to 262 in 2017/18 – an increase of 114 per cent.

And to date in 2018/19, there have been well over 200 recorded incidents.

A recent peak for violence towards school staff came in 2016/17, when the total number of recorded incidents was almost 360.

The EIS has said it is determined to address the issue and make sure schools have “a positive and welcoming environment.”

A spokesman for the trade union said: “The EIS will continue to work in partnership with East Renfrewshire Council to address all concerns over pupil indiscipline, particularly those related to violent behaviour in schools.

“Providing a positive and welcoming environment, in which pupils and teachers can work safely and securely, remains a priority in all our schools.”

The figures outlining the number of attacks on school staff in East Renfrewshire were obtained by the Barrhead News under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

Separate FOI reveals stress-related teacher absenses has doubled

A separate FOI request, submitted by the Scottish Conservatives, has revealed that stress-related teacher absences attributed to work pressures in East Renfrewshire’s schools have more than doubled.

The number of teacher absences caused by work-related stress increased from 266 in 2016/17 to 567 in 2017/18.

And data produced by the council also shows the total number of stress-related teacher absences increased from 852 in 2016/17 to 1,657 in 2017/18.

Barrhead News:

Eastwood MSP Jackson Carlaw and East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton have both voiced concerns over the levels of teacher absences attributed to work-related stress.

They also criticised the Scottish Government for the current workload faced by teachers and the impact that increasing demands in the classroom are having on their wellbeing.

Mr Carlaw said: “We have fantastic schools in Eastwood and that is in large part down to the excellent teaching staff in our classrooms.

“It is a clear concern to learn there has been a noticeable increase in the number of work-related teacher absences attributed to stress in East Renfrewshire schools from 2016/17 to 2017/18.

“As these figures show, increasing demands in the classroom are having a negative impact on the wellbeing of our teachers and the Scottish Government must address this situation.”

Mr Masterton added: “Schools in East Renfrewshire are of the highest calibre but, quite clearly, the wellbeing of our teachers is being compromised because of rising workload and other significant pressures.

“The net result is that work-related absences because of stress have more than doubled, according to the latest available data from the council.

“The significant increase is a matter of some concern and the Scottish Government must do more to reduce the demands placed upon our overburdened teachers.”

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council said the mental health and wellbeing of all employees is “a key area of focus” for the local authority, with a number of support measures in place.

He added: “These include a confidential counselling service to address a wide range of issues, occupational health support for long-term absences and training to increase staff resilience and mental health awareness.

“Since 2015, the number of teachers employed in our schools has increased by almost 90, with work-related stress remaining fairly constant during this period.

“Whilst 2017/18 presented an increase on the 2016/17 levels of absence relating to stress, both years displayed a significant reduction on 2015/16 levels and highlights that our approach in this area is making an impact.

“All public sector organisations are taking steps to address rising levels of stress, which are often caused by financial concerns, coping with a bereavement, relationships and family problems.

“We are continuing to work hard to manage absence levels across the council to ensure as much support as possible is available for employees.”