There is no doubt that the needs of children and young people with additional support needs (ASN) are not being fully met in our schools and early years settings. UNISON believes that there is an urgent need take action to ensure that we are Getting It Right For Every Child. Rather than CCTV, there should be a substantial investment in staff who can identify pupils’ additional support needs. Staff need to be put in place to deliver the support identified. Staff need individualised training and ongoing professional development. The aim should be to avoid restraint and improve practice rather than catch and punish staff or pupils.
The real issue is budget cuts. There are not enough staff with specialist training in mainstream or specialist schools. There is also widespread misunderstanding about who is actually providing support for children on a day-to-day basis. The bulk of their support is provided by classroom assistants. School support staff do not get adequate training, support or pay for the work they undertake. People seem to think that school nurses are part of a school’s staff complement. This is not the case: pupils’ healthcare needs are taken care of by support staff. Pupils with challenging behaviour are also most often supported by school staff not teachers. Schools need appropriate funding for both the day-to-day delivery of specialist support and for training and professional development for all the staff.
School support staff are very concerned about the violence they experience in schools. There is little support from employers after an incident has taken place. Many report that they are told that it is just “part of their job”. UNISON believes that reporting systems are inadequate and many incidents go unreported. Even when reported there is little, if any, assessment of what happened or action taken to avoid a repeat. No one should be expected to be the victim of violence as part of their job.
Putting CCTV cameras in our schools would not be particularly effective. There may be a role for body cameras. These can record incidents which can be used for analysis of potential incidents which can support training. The recording can show good practice and support reflection/discussion round how different approaches earlier on could have led to different outcomes. These cameras are more effective at recording incidents and also avoid turning schools into Orwellian nightmares of constant surveillance
UNISON believes that better staffing ratios, including chaperones during intimate care and toileting alongside individualised training are a much more effective way to protect children and staff. Schools are struggling to meet the needs of pupils because of budget cuts and CCTV will not change that.