ATTACKS on school staff in Barnsley have increased significantly in the last decade, according to data obtained by teaching unions.

The local branch of Unison has raised serious concern over the number of incidents of aggression and increasing violence towards staff in schools after concerns were raised by union members.

Ben Harvey, from Unison, said council data for 2016/17 shows there were 128 reported incidents of aggression, physical and verbal violence towards primary school staff and five incidents recorded against staff at secondary schools.

Mr Harvey told the Chronicle it is a significant increase compared with data from 2007/8 when there were just 88 incidents.

Staff have reported being hit, kicked and spat at, often on a daily basis, and the Chronicle understands Unison, GMB, the National Education Union and NASUWT are now surveying all members in order to ascertain the true scale of the issue.

Mr Harvey said: “We are concerned about the increasing numbers of reports of violence and aggression to our members both in Barnsley Council and academised schools.

“Employees working in local authority and academised schools deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in line with Barnsley Council’s zero tolerance policy regarding violence and aggression.

“We note that nationally there is an increase of violence and aggression in schools.

“Locally we want to be assured that Barnsley Council is taking action.

“According to the Barnsley Council’s corporate health and safety statistics for 2016/17 there has been an increase in reported incidents of violence and aggression in primary and secondary schools. We are trying to ensure that incidents are reported accurately and consistently wherever they occur.”

Mr Harvey suspects the low figure of just five incidents at secondary schools is due to under-reporting.

“I think there is possibly a lack of awareness among staff as to the forms they have to fill out and perhaps a fear as being seen as causing trouble. That’s the feedback we get,” he said.

“Some members have said schools are really on it and others say schools are almost saying keep quiet and do not want anyone painting the school in a bad light and this is the job they signed up for.”

Other unions share the concerns that school staff are suffering aggression and violence.

Nicola Fitzpatrick, from the National Education Union, said: “We are all concerned at the level of stress our members are reporting and the obvious impact this has on mental health.

“We want to ensure health and safety policies are being followed correctly and that school leaders and the council are doing their best to protect all employees against violence and aggression of any kind.”

Fiona James, from NASUWT Barnsley, said: “Members report regularly experiencing verbal and physical aggression in schools. This is unacceptable - schools should be a safe place for members to work and for pupils to learn.

“Schools need to ensure the message they send out is constant and unambiguous - zero tolerance.”

Ann Gallagher, from the GMB, said it is receiving ‘more and more’ reports of staff being subject to verbal and in some cases physical abuse by pupils and/or their families, both in person or on social media.

“Barnsley Council has a zero-tolerance policy on aggression and GMB would like this to be rigorously applied in all schools and academies. Schools should be safe for all who attend.”

The council’s education spokesman, Coun Tim Cheetham, said it takes a firm line on enforcing a zero-tolerance policy towards attacks and abuse of employees.

“There is a statement outlining this commitment displayed in most work places and there are clear policies for all employees and managers to follow in reporting and dealing with incidents of unacceptable behaviour towards them.

“We would encourage all schools, local authority maintained or otherwise, to adopt and enforce the same zero tolerance policies to protect their employees at work.”