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Teaching unions Unison and the EIS hit out at Highland Council's treatment of staff

By Scott Maclennan

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Teaching unions Unison and the EIS hit out at Highland Council's approach to staff.
Teaching unions Unison and the EIS hit out at Highland Council's approach to staff.

Two unions representing teachers in the north have written to Highland Council on separate matters – to express “grave concerns” about violence and aggression in schools and dismay at potentially cutting 70 principal teachers from primary schools.

Last week, we revealed that a damning survey conducted by the teachers’ union the EIS revealed staff in the Highlands are facing “a significant amount of violence and aggression” in schools.

Just the week before bosses issued a report which blamed primary teachers for low attainment stats that sparked a wave of criticism of the council.

Many staff are considering whether to leave the profession altogether with as many as 70 per cent of branches reporting violent or abusive incidents “daily.”

Now Unison has taken up the issue urging immediate action in a letter to education chief Nicky Grant and the chairman of the education committee, John Finlayson.

Unison said: “We feel compelled to raise a matter of grave concern that has widespread implications for the well-being of our members and the children they support: the alarmingly high levels of violence and aggression they encounter.”

The union is calling for an “urgent review” of the roles and responsibilities of school support and early years staff, especially anyone involved with ASN and behavioural issues and an “an urgent review” of training for these staff members.

Unison also wants the council to “reinforce and improve” health and safety arrangements to “safeguard our members from harm” and immediately evaluate pupil-facing roles “to capture the realities of the job.”

On top of that, the EIS union has voiced its dismay at a review into whether to downgrade 70 principal teachers, who sit just beneath deputy head teachers in the chain of command.

The EIS argued the council’s position not just “devalues the role and the hard work” of principal teachers but could provoke an exodus of experienced staff from the region and will reduce attainment.

The union said: “Headteachers were not consulted on this change and have raised concerns about the impact on their management of schools.

“Losing good, experienced teachers to other authorities, or worse, the profession, will not raise attainment. Where this has already been put into place in other authorities, attainment has suffered.

“The wording of the job description in the proposal devalues the role and the hard work that many of our principal teachers do all across Highland.”

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