Nearly a dozen teachers have had their pay cut and been banned from their classrooms at an Edinburgh school after refusing to teach “violent” pupils.
Kaimes School in Liberton saw 11 teachers sent home and replaced by supply staff after they claimed they faced “violent” physical assaults, threats, and verbal abuse from eight students.
The walkout on October 22nd came 12 months after concerns were first raised about the pupils, who the teachers say they believe pose a risk to health, safety and welfare.
But union NASUWT say the teachers have had their pay stopped and have been refused entry into their classrooms at the special educational needs institution, in a retaliatory move by the local council.
The union, which represents the teachers, accused Edinburgh City Council of launching a “campaign of aggressive and punitive actions” towards staff members.
Teachers are entitled to a safe working environmentChris Keates, NASUWT
The council has defended the move, saying that the teachers are in breach of their contract and that they cannot simply pick and choose the students they teach.
It said teachers had a responsibility to cater to all students as part of their General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) registration for being a teacher.
The union stressed in a statement that teachers are “entitled to a safe working environment”, adding that students are entitled to “learn in safety”.
Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, 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.
“The council has sought to bully and intimidate the teachers in a meeting, has stopped all their salary and, despite the fact that they are turning up to work each day willing and ready, not only to take their timetabled classes and teach the overwhelming majority of the pupils, but also to provide appropriate work for the eight pupils, they have been refused entry to their classrooms and told to leave the school premises.”
She said it “beggars belief” that the council “prefers to disrupt not only the education of the majority of pupils at Kaimes, but also potentially pupils at other schools”, rather than dealing with the pupils.
Keates met deputy First Minister John Swinney on Wednesday night, who she says has urged the union and the council to resolve the issue with “constructive discussions”.
The council also met Swinney, who is also cabinet secretary for education and skills, adding that it was committed to working with school staff to promote a positive working environment.
It said in a statement: “Our executive director of communities and families had a frank and open conversation with Mr Swinney outlining the council’s position.
“We are committed to working with staff at the school to ensure we improve attainment and wellbeing while also delivering a positive working environment for both teachers and pupils. An Improvement Action Plan, developed in consultation with staff and subject to external expert scrutiny, is in place.
“Kaimes staff are dedicated professionals and we would urge the NASUWT and staff involve to sit down with us as soon as possible to resolve this situation.”