Leaders: Dream scenario is making school safer

Almost half of Scottish councils have reported a rise in the number of assaults by pupils. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Almost half of Scottish councils have reported a rise in the number of assaults by pupils. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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Schools should be places where hopes and dreams are born and the means to achieve them passed on to tomorrow’s generation in secure surroundings, providing a rewarding experience not just for pupils, but also for the teachers. Regrettably, that is not the case for far too many teachers.

Almost half of Scottish councils have reported a rise in the number of assaults by pupils over the last three years. While a quarter have said that there has been a reduction, the overall picture revealed by a freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservative Party is that violent behaviour is on the increase.

This is deeply troubling. It is true that most of the assaults contributing to this dismal record are verbal and only a minority involve physical contact. Fortunately there has been no extremely serious event in Scottish schools such as the murder by a pupil of Leeds teacher Ann Maguire earlier this year.

But the patterns observable in general crime and violent behaviour on the streets are also applicable to schools – the more disorder and minor offences there are in a particular area, the more likely there are to be more serious incidents. Naturally, we pray both that there are no such incidents and no such deaths in Scottish schools, but the trend and current circumstances look ominous.

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Even if serious attacks on teachers are comparatively rare, a constant background of lesser violence, even if it is just verbal, has an adverse effect on education.

A teacher who is worried about the possibility of being verbally or physically abused is unlikely to be able to teach to the best of their professional abilities.

And if aggressive attitudes by pupils towards teachers is on the increase, then it is certain that such students will behave similarly towards pupils they believe are weaker than them. Bullying within schools is also a severe problem stunting educational achievement.

Much of the problem lies outside school. Far too many school students live in environments where aggressive behaviour – ranging from shouting to physical intimidation and attacks – are too common. Sometimes such behaviour apparently gets the aggressor’s desired result. Many may learn from that and take it into the school with them.

Though it is not the primary function of schools and teachers to turn aggressively-inclined youngsters into model citizens, it is nevertheless necessary for them to strive in this direction as part of the effort to drive up educational standards.

All local authorities and schools have policies in place to do this. There can be no let-up in the drive to make sure schools are safe working environments for teachers. That will make them safe and better for pupils too.

Ither foaks can moan aa thi’ like

Weel, weel, ma loon, fit like the day? Ach, nae bad but nae great either.

Fit’s bothering you?

Weel, ye ken we’ve been working awfu hard at smartening up Aiberdeen’s centre, getting traders into thae emptae shops on Union Street and takin’ doon thae tatty “tae let” signs.

Jist when you start tae get rid o the plooks, some smairt architect folks fae Glasgow announce they think the hale place is a carbuncle.

Yer kidding me? Naw, an’ we thought we’d got rid o’ the carbuncle when we demolished the auld cooncil heidquarters.

Huv they no seen the awfy bonny plans we’ve goat tae replace it?

Appairently no. Tae think, us Aiberdonians keep the hale countrae afloat wi aa the oil wealth we produce, get damn aa back, an’ this is hoo they treat us. Mak ye seek, it wid, ah ken ah am.

Dee ye think it’s a pit-up joab? Ye micht be richt. I’ve heard some foak musing aboot it, an’ they think Sir Ian Wood micht be ahent it, a fine piece o revenge for us turning doon his grand scheme tae gie us £50 million tae mak a mess o Union Street gairdens. But ah think Sir Ian’s too proud o his ain city fur at kinda monkey business.

But fit are ye deeing aboot it? Weel, ye ken, ah’ve been gieing it a load o thocht, an ah think ah’ve goat the answer.

Fit? Absolutely naething. We’ve goat loadsa joabs, we’ve goat beaches, we’ve goat mountains on oor doorstep, in fact, we’re aa too busy makin money tae be bothered aboot the moaning o ither foaks wi’oot aa that. Ah feel better already.