Concerns increase after videos on social media show violent outbursts from pupils
The Scottish Tories will use a Holyrood debate this week to call on Government ministers to create a “comprehensive plan” to tackle violence in schools.
By Lucy Ashton
Concerns have been raised in recent months after a number of videos circulated on social media showing violent outbursts from pupils.
Teachers and staff in Scotland’s schools faced more than 22,000 attacks in 2021/22, a report from the Sunday Mail in December said.
The party’s education spokesman Stephen Kerr said: “The escalation of violent incidents in schools in recent years is nothing short of a national scandal.
“The SNP have taken their eye off the ball on this issue and violent incidents have soared as a result.”
He added: “The Scottish Conservatives are using our party business to urge ministers to produce a comprehensive plan to address this crisis of violence which has become endemic in our schools.
“We will urge the setting up of a school violence working group as well as a review of current exclusion policies would be positive steps forward to get on top of this serious issue.
“Ministers must also provide parents and schools with guidance, materials and support that would assist them in promoting acceptable behaviour and tackling disruption.
“If education really is the SNP’s number one priority, then they will back the calls made by the Scottish Conservatives during our debate to ensure that everyone in our schools is free from the risk of their learning being disrupted by violence.”
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth last week told the NASUWT teaching union conference in Aberdeen that youngsters are “struggling” in the wake of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
“The graphic videos that we’ve seen in the press in recent times… are completely unacceptable,” she told delegates.
“But we need to recognise that our schools are dealing with real challenges at the current time.
“There is no place for that type of behaviour in our schools.
“I think it’s also true today that our young folk are struggling.”
Gilruth said there has been a “huge increase” in young people with additional support needs, adding: “I want to work with you on how we can better support staff wellbeing but also meet the needs of our pupils.
“And when behaviour is challenging, I expect there to be policies in place in every school in Scotland to help support our pupils and support you, our staff.”
Responding to comments from the Tories on Tuesday, Ms Gilruth said: “Any form of violence in our schools is completely unacceptable.
“I have spoken openly about my concern regarding the change in school culture post-Covid and what that has meant for behaviour but, more generally, relationships within our school communities.
“It is clear that teachers need support to respond to challenging behaviour, but it is also clear to me that examples of extreme events reported in the press must be treated very carefully. We are, after all, talking about children.
“In my experience as a former teacher, there can be a range of different factors which impact on a child’s behaviour in school. More often than not those factors are external to the school community and teachers are skilled professionals in defusing challenging scenarios on a daily basis.
“Since my appointment, I have discussed this matter at length with Cosla (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), Ades (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland) and the teaching Unions. Whilst we await the outcome of the national research, which was last completed in 2016, I have also been clear with my officials in Scottish Government on the need for urgency from all partners in Scottish education.
“The Scottish Government works closely with local authorities to tackle violence and bullying in schools, supported by wider investment of more than £2 million on violence prevention.
“Our local authorities have a statutory responsibility for the provision of education in our school. I look forward to working with Cosla, Ades and our trade union partners on this issue, noting that the national picture has not yet been captured by our evidence-gathering.
“Covid has changed the culture in our schools – in part that relates to behaviour – but we need to look more broadly at things like attendance particularly in those year groups who faced transition periods, for example primary to secondary, during lockdown.
“I am determined to ensure that teachers and all school staff are better supported to deal with behaviour in our schools, including reporting of incidents.
“We will continue to engage with trade unions and, later this year, we will publish updated material showing the national picture in relation to this issue.”
Top picture: Education Minister Jenny Gilruth and First Minister Humza Yousaf.