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Support worker reveals 18-months of violence and abuse in Highland school

By Val Sweeney

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A support worker in a Highland school is believed to be suffering PSTD after an 18-month ordeal.
A support worker in a Highland school is believed to be suffering PSTD after an 18-month ordeal.

Doctors fear a support worker is suffering post traumatic stress disorder after an 18-month ordeal of violence and abuse in a Highland school.

The case was highlighted by the GMB ahead of an emergency meeting to chart the surging violence endured by school support staff and to call for action to protect them.

The woman was repeatedly punched, kicked, slapped and verbally abused by a pupil whose violent outbursts made him too disruptive to be taught in class.

The boy, who has been diagnosed with autism, is in a mainstream primary school but prone to sudden rages when he can lash out verbally and physically.

She was asked to help the boy with school work in a separate room away from his class but said virtually every day he would become enraged, kicking, punching, slapping, trashing the room, breaking windows, throwing chairs and overturning desks.

"Looking back, it is hard to believe it happened but even harder to believe it was allowed to continue for 18 months," she said.

She is getting counselling more than a year after leaving the school and says her GP believes she has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"I was covered in bruises all the time, a million bruises, but the mental impact was worse than the physical injuries," she said.

"I feel a lot angrier now than I used to be, more intolerant and have flashbacks all the time. I can’t stop reliving it.

"It was my job and I was trying my best but I shouldn’t have been put in that position being abused and battered for £11 an hour.

"I try to be a positive person and people would ask me if I was OK and I would always say I was fine but I wasn’t. Inside, I was breaking.”

"The boy was being failed. I was being failed and no one wanted to know."

She filled in more than 100 reports detailing violent incidents in the 18 months she spent supporting the boy but says nothing was done.

"I was given no training in how to minimise risks or protect myself," she said. "I was given no panic buttons, or walkie talkies. I was abandoned.

"I was given no assurance at all that my concerns were being taken seriously or that my physical and mental wellbeing was a matter of concern for anyone in authority.

"I’ve been working with children for 15 years and have never experienced anything like it."

She is now working at a specialist school but her union, GMB Scotland, is pursuing a grievance complaint with her against Highland Council about the lack of protection in her previous role.

She backs the union’s campaign for staff to get more training and to be encouraged to record incidents of violence and have them properly investigated and appropriate action taken.

"The councils have no idea what school staff are facing in terms of violence and abuse because it is not even being properly recorded never mind investigated," she said.

In her new role she said: "There is a team around me and I feel valued and supported. That is all anyone wants. It shouldn’t be so hard."

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