Ministers told to act as scale of school violence in Scotland laid bare

The Scottish Government has said violence in schools was “completely unacceptable”

Ministers have been told to take “urgent action” after new figures revealed school violence increased by more than 53 per cent since the last pre-pandemic school year.

Statistics obtained through freedom of information showed 97,372 reports of violence and aggression were reported in schools across Scotland between 2018-19 and 2022-23.

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In the current school year up to March 2024, a further 23,010 incidents were logged from 27 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Picture: David Jones/PA WirePicture: David Jones/PA Wire
Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

Analysis of the data show that for the last full school year – 2022-23 – 29,180 incidents were recorded by schools, up 53.6 per cent from the 18,993 in 2018-19, the last year before schools were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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However, the total could be higher as Scotland’s largest local authority Glasgow City Council said it was unable to provide the data requested due to costs, alongside South Ayrshire.

Each local authority records the information in a different way, with most including verbal and physical aggression, throwing of objects, sexual harassment and damage to property.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Photo: Michael GillenEducation Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Photo: Michael Gillen
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Photo: Michael Gillen

Where a breakdown was provided, the vast majority of incidents were pupil violence against teachers.

Scottish Labour education spokeswoman Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “This shocking rise in school violence demands urgent action from the SNP.

“Teachers, school staff and families have been sounding the alarm on this issue but the Government hasn’t been listening.”

The Scottish Government has said violence in schools was “completely unacceptable”, adding it is providing new funding to train support staff while launching a new gender-based violence framework for school.

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A breakdown of the figures by local authority level showed Fife and Edinburgh – both large council areas – had 7,546 and 7,356 reports of violence over the five-year period between 2018-19 and 2022-23.

There were 2,652 incidents in Fife in 2022-23, up 118.8 per cent from 1,212 in 2018-19 and the 2023-24 school year to date had already surpassed that figure, with 3,695 incidents recorded.

Edinburgh saw an increase to 2,454 in 2022-23, up 54.2 per cent from 1,591 in 201-19 and had 2,074 so far in 2023-24.

Ms Duncan-Glancy added: “After years of SNP mismanagement, schools in Scotland have become pressure cookers and pupils are paying the price.

“Children need to have a safe place to learn – the SNP must give teachers and school staff the support they need, and set out a real plan to put a stop to violence in our schools.”

Liam Kerr, education spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “This crisis cannot be allowed to escalate further. SNP ministers must stop dithering and take real action to protect pupils and teachers from violence in our schools.”

The Scottish Government said work was “well under way” to bring forward a national action plan with Cosla, with guidance set to be published in the spring.

Meanwhile, new guidance on mobile phones in schools will also be published in the coming weeks.

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A spokesman said: “Scotland’s schools should be safe learning environments for all – violence and abuse behaviour towards pupils or staff is completely unacceptable.

“The Scottish Government is taking action in response to issues with behaviour in schools, providing new funding to train support staff and launching the gender-based violence in schools framework.”

The spokesman added: “The Scottish Government’s behaviour in Scottish schools research, which published last year, also highlights the importance of accurately recording and monitoring incidents.

“This helps schools and local authorities to identify recurring patterns thereby ensuring early intervention and appropriate support.

“This is why it has been made clear that schools are encouraged, in the strongest possible terms, to undertake more accurate recording of all incidents of inappropriate, abuse or violent behaviour in our schools.”

Some councils began recording different types of violence in the 2022-23 school year – such as damage to property and verbal threats – which may account for some of the higher figures recorded.

Argyll and Bute Council and the Western Isles did not respond to the request for information while Shetland’s figures were less than five in each category and therefore too small to analyse.



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