A TEACHING union is calling for tough action after shocking figures revealed school staff in East Renfrewshire suffered almost 600 violent incidents within the space of a year.

Incidents rose from 262 in the 2017/18 school year to 592 in 2018/19, with 492 of these recorded as physical violence.

The statistics are revealed in a report to members of East Renfrewshire Council’s education committee on health, safety and security in schools.

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It states the majority of violent incidents involve pupils with additional support needs or “pupils posing challenging behaviour in predominately seven schools”.

The report adds: “The education department remains fully committed to maintaining and improving its standards in health, safety and security.

“Violence to staff incidents have decreased in some schools but, at the same time, has increased in others.

“As a result of discussions with union colleagues, it has been agreed to establish a working group consisting of staff of various job roles.”

The working group will meet to identify good practice and areas for improvement, according to the report.

The EIS teaching union has said that, when serious incidents take place, they must be dealt with “swiftly and firmly”.

“This should include police involvement where a teacher has been physically assaulted or placed under severe threat,” added an EIS spokesperson.

“The majority of young people in our schools are positively engaged in their learning. Both pupils and teachers deserve to be in a safe and secure environment."

Maurice Golden, West of Scotland MSP, added: "These numbers are absolutely shocking and my thoughts are with any teacher who has suffered a verbal or physical attack.

"It’s clear that more resources are needed - especially when it comes to supporting pupils with additional needs.

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “We take all incidents of this nature in our schools extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance approach to violence at work.

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“It should be noted that the vast majority of such incidents relate to children and young people with significant additional support needs and, in part, some pupils adapting to an environment that was previously unfamiliar to them.

“As such, we have – and continue to provide – training to support all staff to engage with pupils with challenging behaviour and to ensure pupils’ needs are met and their communications understood.

“Where such incidents do occur, they are thoroughly investigated and reflected upon and, where appropriate, action and changes in approaches for individual children takes place.”