Exclusive:'It is breaking my heart': Parents anguish at surging school violence as they inundated SNP with demands for action

Senior politicians were being contacted several times a week over attacks

SNP ministers have been inundated with a flood of emails and letters detailing harrowing accounts of a surge in school violence.

Distraught parents, carers, school staff and even pupils were contacting senior politicians several times a week earlier this year with “heart-breaking” stories of the way their families had been impacted by attacks.

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Communications released to The Scotsman show how some parents feared for their child’s life, as they pleaded with ministers to take action.

Rising school violence. Pic: National WorldRising school violence. Pic: National World
Rising school violence. Pic: National World

Many of the emails contained videos of the incidents after the footage was shared on social media by perpetrators.

One parent outlined allegations of sexual assault, another described a primary pupil who was “dragged” into school toilets before being kicked unconscious, then there was a girl who was “lured” to a changing room to be attacked while others filmed, and another incident was described as one which “could easily have left the pupil for dead”.

Under freedom of information (FOI) laws, the Government released 109 pages of communications sent to ministers, mostly by members of the public.

The vast majority are from the second half of 2022 and the first four months of 2023, in the lead up to the Government’s decision to call a summit to discuss concerns about school violence.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth was appointed last March and unveiled plans for a summit in May, although the Government is still to produce a detailed action plan to address the trend.

By the second half of 2022, ministers were being contacted twice a week in some months about school violence, and by January 2023 it was at an average of more than four times a week, mostly from parents.

Within 48 hours of Ms Gilruth succeeding Shirley-Anne Somerville, she was contacted by a parent who described a “premeditated attack” on their child, who had been “lured” into a PE changing room to be assaulted while others filmed it.

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They feared their child’s life was “at risk”, having had a can of Coke thrown over her so she could not see, being thrown to the floor, before the attacker started “kicking her in the face and head, bouncing her head off a wall and kicking her in other areas”.

One of the key trends to emerge from an official study into behaviour in Scottish schools, which was published in November, was the prevalence of violence and aggressive behaviour in primaries.

The communications show how a parent contacted Ms Somerville to warn of a “drastic increase in the level of bullying and violence within the school grounds” at one primary.

They described how their son was “knocked unconscious by another primary pupil due to what can only be described as an unprovoked assault”.

During the morning break, their son had been “dragged into the toilets”, thrown to the ground, before one of the attackers “kicked him in the chest so hard” he “passed out”.

In November 2022, a pupil from an unnamed school decided to get in touch with Scottish ministers.

“I can’t remember the last time I actually learned anything in this school as the lessons are ruined a lot by the pupils,” they said.

In the same month, a school staff member contacted the Government, saying: “I am absolutely shocked at what I see on a daily basis, swearing at teachers, vandalism, toilet roll and paper towel dispensers being ripped off the wall, graffiti on all walls, corridors littered with tons of rubbish, people smoking weed.”

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In another email, a parent wrote that as “a family we are at our wits end”, and that “persuading your child to go somewhere that feels unsafe is mentally draining as a parent”.

They added that their child was a shadow of their former self and “it is breaking my heart”.

Another sent video footage of their own child being “brutally assaulted after school” as they were standing alone waiting to be picked up.

They asked: “My (child) actually wants an education but is far too frightened to go back to school, what do I do?”

Many of the communications complained about a lack of consequences for those involved in the attacks.

It comes amid calls from teaching unions for clearer guidance on Scotland’s policy on exclusions, the rates of which have been falling in recent years amid an emphasis on “restorative practice”.

"The policy is not working, it is creating tensions between education staff, police and the community,” one writer told ministers.

"Until now I have always voted for the SNP, but a Government who is effectively not protecting my children, and creating a dystopian seeming, lawless community through romanticised policies, is absolutely failing.”

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The spouse of one member of school staff wrote: "In no other workplace would staff be expected to deal with the level of verbal abuse, the threat of physical abuse and nothing be done.”

Another writer, who described herself as a “heartbroken and deeply concerned mother”, said: “Now your education system is subjecting my child to fear, witnessing peers being assaulted daily, and it would seem that is OK.

"Our children, we have been told, are expendable, they can be used as punch bags as often as necessary.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s schools should be safe learning environments for all – violent and abusive behaviour towards pupils or staff is completely unacceptable.

"While the latest Relationships and Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research report made clear most young people are well behaved in school it showed disruptive behaviours have increased since 2016.

"The Education Secretary has been clear that this must be improved, and has set out five steps to address concerns around behaviour including bringing forward a National Action Plan, to set out a range of actions at national, local and school level, and a dedicated approach to responding to issues surrounding misogyny.”



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