A TEACHING union is set to accuse the Scottish Government of a “complete abdication of responsibility” amid the lack of a national strategy on the physical restraint of pupils during classroom violence.

The NASUWT union will use its national conference this weekend to highlight the growing prevalence of violence in the classroom.

Dr Patrick Roach, the union’s general secretary, has said teaching staff are putting themselves at “considerable risk” trying to protect themselves and others from physical assaults.

At the conference, Scottish teachers will argue their safety and careers are on the line as they accuse the Scottish Government of being four years late with guidance on how teachers should handle situations where they feel compelled to intervene and physically restrain a pupil for their own safety.

The National: NASUWT

Statistics published from a union survey last year showed four in 10 Scottish teachers reported experiencing violence or physical abuse in the previous 12 months, while 93% said the issue had increased.

Draft guidance published by ministers in 2020 said restraint should only be used as a “last resort to prevent harm, with the minimum necessary force and for the minimum necessary time”.

However, the Scottish Government’s pledge to publish more concrete guidance by the end of 2023 was not met.

At the conference, held in Harrogate, Scottish teachers will argue the lack of guidance has allowed local authorities to develop their own “disparate” and “inconsistent” policies.

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Ahead of the motion, Dr Roach said: “This much-needed guidance has been in the pipeline since 2020, yet four years later still nothing has materialised while teachers are experiencing increasing levels of serious disruption and violence in their schools.

“Every day teachers across Scotland are faced with situations where they feel they have to intervene to physically restrain a pupil to try to prevent them hurting themselves or others.

“They are stepping into considerable risk to themselves and we regularly deal with casework where teachers have either been injured or been the subject of disciplinary action or allegations stemming from an intervention.

“Teachers are being expected to put their safety and sometimes, their careers, on the line to keep their pupils safe, but they are doing so without the backing, training and advice they need and have a right to expect.

“The Scottish Government must fulfil its responsibility to teachers and commit to working with us to get this guidance published as soon as possible.”

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Mike Corbett, the union’s Scotland national official, said: “On a matter where the safety of children and school staff is on the line this is dangerous and unfair. We need a nationally agreed approach which upholds the duty of care schools have to both teachers and pupils and which comes accompanied with training and resources for school staff.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Restraint and seclusion in schools must only ever be used as a last resort to prevent the risk of harm and existing guidance on physical intervention and seclusion, published in 2017, remains in place.

“We consulted on a draft of our new human-rights based guidance in 2022. We are committed to publishing final guidance as soon as possible, with the physical intervention working group being reconvened to make amendments to the guidance ahead of its publication.

“In addition, the Scottish Government is currently exploring options for strengthening the legal framework in this area, including the option of statutory guidance.”