School staff are entitled to work in a safe environment

An incident involving a group of students at a secondary school in Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs has highlighted concerns about staff working in a healthy and safe environment. A physical altercation between students has left a teacher seriously injured and several students have been arrested.

Meredith Peace, AEU Victorian Branch President has said, “the incident has been deeply concerning and our priority is the safety of all staff and students involved.

“Principals, teachers and support staff, like everyone else, are entitled to work in a safe environment. Violence, whether physical or verbal, is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.

“We know that teachers, principals and school support staff are overworked, with many working over 50 hours a week, posing a major toll on their emotional and mental wellbeing.

“The government must do more to protect the physical and mental health of their employees.

“Responsibilities of all staff in schools has changed significantly over time, dealing with complex and challenging behaviours, learning difficulties and the impact of social issues such as mental health and family violence.

“It’s clear that schools need more resources and support so that school staff can react appropriately when instances like these occur, but more importantly to put in place proactive supports that may reduce events such as these.

“We are monitoring the specific situation closely and working with the department, the school and the staff affected to ensure that they are getting appropriate support.

“Schools need additional funding and resources so that students and staff can access timely support when they need it. When staff and students feel like they do not have the supports in place to work through problems and issues, or get assistance when needed, it can lead to incidents like this,” said Ms Peace.