Difficult and challenging pupil behaviour is something that our school support staff must deal with on a day-to-day basis.
We hear from many of our members who have been the victims of verbal and physical aggression, sometimes of a racist or sexual nature.
In a recent UNISON survey, 60% of the 15,000 school support staff who responded admitted they were concerned about how to deal with some of the students they work with.
And while it’s easy for people outside the education system to simply dismiss this as ‘part of the job’ and that school staff should just ‘get on with it’, this is certainly not the answer.
For a long time now, we have been urging governments to provide better protection for those who work in schools.
Too often. support staff are overlooked in favour of teachers when it comes to behaviour management strategies and training courses.
At our school support staff conference in Cardiff last week, new guidance was published by UNISON to help support staff to handle difficult situations. It is designed to give them more confidence and practical help to manage behaviour and communicate effectively with parents and pupils.
This in itself though is not the solution.
The new UK government – as well as those in Wales and Scotland – needs to recognise that pupil behaviour is one of the main areas that school staff repeatedly raise as a cause for concern.
This is not just over fear for their own safety, but because of the way bad behaviour disrupts the ability for other pupils to learn.
None of us should feel physically frightened when we go to work in the morning, and no-one should have to consider leaving the career they love because of the threat of violence.
What we need is better training and support from school managers and head teachers to help support staff to work alongside the most challenging pupils.