An incident in which a teacher was hospitalised at a Luton high school has prompted a policy review for dealing with violence and aggression in the town’s schools
The local authority was forced to take action by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), following the events at Putteridge High School in 2016.
The HSE identified “significant contraventions of health and safety law”, and threatened legal proceedings against the borough council if it failed to act.
The school was fined the cost of the HSE investigation, but would not comment on the individual case at the time “as proceedings were on-going”.
A new violence and aggression policy has been drawn up in mitigation, according to a report to the council’s administration and regulation committee.
The policy is divided to cover education and corporate staff.
“Corporate covers all of our employees and people working on behalf of the council,” said the council’s facilities management team leader Rachel Doyle.
“And alongside that is the policy with guidance for education.”
“As part of the corporate health and safety review, we have reviewed all of our policies and procedures, and we have developed new policies where required.
“It’s also following an incident which happened in one of our high schools, where the HSE have been involved.
“One of its (HSE’s) recommendations was to have a more clearly defined policy to deal with violence and aggression in our place of work.
“As part of the consultation, we have worked with a varied group of head teachers from nurseries and schools.”
Councillor Peter Chapman said: “That’s good. I think it’s really important teachers are aware of exactly what’s in here.
“Is in any way the result in here being built into our exit interviews for teachers?” he asked.
“There’s a very high turnover of teachers in Luton schools and very poor retention level in certain schools.
“And my gut feeling is, for a number of teachers, disruption and some of the issues in here are a fundamental reason why we have this high turnover.”
Violence is defined as “any incident in which a person is physically or mentally abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”, said the report to councillors.
This includes physical violence and verbal abuse, which covers the spoken and written word, such as text, email and social media.
Human resources manager trades services (schools) Sharon Dickman said: “Head teachers will be responsible for rolling it out in schools, but we haven’t pushed on their doing so yet.
“They are providing more training for their staff for dealing with violence and aggression.
“There’s more support for teachers to raise issues about violence and aggression simply by having the policy in place.”
Councillor Chapman said: “I do feel in Luton schools it is a hidden issue. I believe that’s true because of the turnover of staff.
“If there wasn’t something wrong they wouldn’t be leaving.”
She responded: “I don’t disagree with you. It definitely has an impact on turnover. We do need to do more where we can.
“This policy is being shared with all of them, so they can all work to that.
“We run training courses and business manager meetings where we can publicise this and we can identify the schools which aren’t.
“The ones which don’t report anything will be the ones to worry about.”
The facilities management team leader said: “The policy is for corporate staff as well.
“Reporting of acts of violence or abuse, whether mainly verbal, is coming and it’s more and more often.
“Unfortunately that’s the climate that we are in. But it’s also because staff can see now they can (report it) and things can be addressed.”
Training is underway to implement the new policy in Luton schools and across the borough council.
The committee agreed to approve and seek the implementation of the corporate and education violence and aggression policies.