Sunday, 9 September 2007

DUNDEE: Number of school violence reports spiralled, claim

Number of school violence reports spiralled, claim

VIOLENCE REPORT forms were filled in on a regular basis by staff at the troubled Dundee primary school where the deputy head teacher has been suspended after allegations of unruly behaviour by pupils and parents became public, it was claimed yesterday.

Speaking exclusively to The Courier after his wife Linda was identified by the coalition administration as the suspended teacher at Sidlaw View Primary, Vic Ross said the number of violence report forms filled in by staff had “spiralled this term.”

Initially Dundee City Council education department insisted that no such reports had been received from the Kirkton school since the summer holiday break.

But late last night, council leader Kevin Keenan appeared to recognise that the situation was threatening to escalate when he said he would discuss with chief executive Alex Stephen the possibility of holding an independent inquiry into the issue.

Accounts of troublesome pupils physically and verbally attacking teachers, a culture of bullying among some children and confrontations between parents both inside the school and at the gates have been lent credibility by dozens of calls to The Courier over the past two days.

The deputy head was suspended because the city council suggested she had raised issues with the press rather than through proper procedures. We stress once again that no member of staff has been asked to comment by The Courier.

It was Mr Ross who lifted the lid on Sidlaw View because of concern about his wife’s safety.

Reacting to the council’s assertion that it takes safety of staff extremely seriously, Mr Ross said if that was their position, why had they not received any of the violence report forms?

He asked, “Where have they disappeared to? They are supposed to be transferred to Tayside House and they are saying they haven’t received any. These forms are important to staff. They are the only procedure available to them to get in touch.”

He went on to describe what he saw as a number of other issues he had observed on his visits to the school which raised questions about the local authority’s attitude.

He said, “Not one member of staff carries an ID pass. That is because they have not been issued to them.

“It was only after staff consultations on Monday that new signing in and out measures for visitors were introduced. Up to then people were just barging in and out.

“The videophone at the front entrance is a joke. The screen is so scratched and blurred and the sound so poor that any caller is indecipherable and inaudible.

“The signs for CCTV are so out of date that they say the person responsible is a head teacher who was there five years ago.

“Members of staff have spoken out about all that has been happening, they have just not been heard,” he said.

“All the members of staff are working in very difficult circumstances. Some of the children there should not be in a mainstream primary school.

“Knives and all sorts of weapons have been handed in because they have been discovered on pupils.

“The strain on the staff is absolutely horrendous, far worse than I ever dreamt it would be.”

Mr Ross said the final irony of suspending his wife is that in doing so, the education department had removed the one member of staff at the school who is trained in techniques for dealing with violent children.

Following preliminary discussions with several of the parties involved, MSP Joe FitzPatrick is scheduled to hold a meeting with director of education Anne Wilson at Tayside House today about the concerns surrounding Sidlaw View.

Late yesterday, in an apparent change of approach to the accounts of trouble at the school, an education department spokesperson said only, “The council is undertaking a thorough professional investigation into all the allegations that have been made.”

Earlier a fuller statement was issued, which continued, “As part of that investigation, staff and others will be involved.

“However, we would again state that initial investigations have indicated that a number of the allegations are untrue and not substantiated.

“The city council would prefer not to make any further comment about the suspension of the depute head teacher in accordance with its personnel policies.

“The education department would like to reiterate that Sidlaw View is undertaking excellent work in an area of the city that suffers from a number of complex problems.

“The commitment and dedication of staff is reflected in increased levels of attainment in reading, writing and maths.”

However, Councillor Keenan said he would be asking Mr Stephen to set up an independent inquiry.

“We need to get to the bottom of the problem and resolve the issue for staff, parents and the children at the school.

“The inquiry would highlight any difficulties and make recommendations if that was necessary.

“We can’t go on with articles in the paper about it: we need to move forward.

“If there is indiscipline at the school, we have always made it clear that we will not tolerate it. Pupils who do behave at school have to have peace to get on with their education. We have that duty to staff and parents and we take it very seriously.

“I will discuss an independent inquiry in greater detail with Mr Stephen.”


Justin Hawk said...

The whole charade was exposed at the employment tribunal – lies were told.

It beggars belief that Dundee City Council have failed to keep proper accounts, detailing legal and other costs involved in their persecution of teacher Linda Ross.

In the tribunal judgment last year, former education director Anne Wilson, council human resources (HR) staff and Lord Provost John Letford were criticised.

Justin Hawk said...

A recent update to the article above follows:

Mrs Ross was eventually sacked by Dundee City Council following the press release.

Last year she won an employment tribunal against Dundee City Council for wrongful dismissal. Her husband Vic, recently exposed the council for “wasting taxpayers’ money” by appealing the unanimous decision reached by top employment Judge Ian McFatridge.

On the council’s actions against his wife, he said, "I felt it was payback for Sidlaw View because I had highlighted the violence in Dundee schools.”

Mr Ross said the council’s move is a “face-saving exercise” after senior officials were singled out for criticism by the panel.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal will take place in Edinburgh 13, 14, 15 February 2013.

It is estimated the cost to the council will exceed £25,000 for hiring a top QC.

After suffering persecution from the council for six years including a breach of her human rights, there must surely be compensation handed out to Mrs Ross next month in Edinburgh, if justice is seen to be done.