Union warns teachers not to break up playground fights

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The Independent Online

A teachers' union is warning its members against intervening in playground fights.

The move by the 8,500-strong Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) comes after local authority officials refused to compensate a 58-year-old female teacher who was punched in the mouth after she attempted to break up a scuffle between pupils.

She subsequently had to undergo dental surgery to repair her teeth, which were damaged in the incident, and was left with a £2,500 bill for her trouble. However, Glasgow City Council refused to sanction compensation or even allow her time off to go to the dentist – advising that the claim was invalid because there was no negligence on behalf of the council.

The incident comes at a time of growing controversy over teachers' powers to restrain pupils. In England, Michael Gove, the Conservatives' schools spokesman, has said one of the first acts of a Tory government would be to issue new guidelines giving teachers greater powers to restrain pupils and also search them, with a view to confiscating any dangerous weapons.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the SSTA, said staff would be "less inclined" to intervene in clashes as a result of the city council's actions, and that the incident would have severe consequences for the maintenance of discipline in schools.

The union has already contacted all its members in Glasgow about the incident, and is writing to all its members warning them of the dangers of intervening.

The teacher concerned has refused to comment on the issue because of the terms of her employment, but a family friend said she had been through "a difficult ordeal".

Ms Ballinger said: "If teachers feel they do not have the full support of their local authority if they get injured in such an incident, then it puts school staff in a very difficult position, and they will be less inclined to get involved."

City council officials said teachers should weigh up the risk to themselves before getting involved in any playground incidents and not put themselves at risk or aggravate the situation.