Exclusive:Violence rarely reported at hundreds of schools across Scotland as staff are 'discouraged' from revealing true scale of crisis

Only a handful of incidents recorded last year at majority of secondaries in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Highland and South Lanarkshire

Hundreds of schools across Scotland are rarely reporting any violence amid claims teachers are “actively discouraged” from recording incidents, it can be revealed.

An investigation by The Scotsman has found a huge number of schools say they have no violent incidents at all, with many more reporting very low numbers, including the majority of secondary schools in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Highland, Stirling and South Lanarkshire.

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Teaching unions, who have long raised concerns about the under-reporting of incidents, said the figures “do not tally” with the experience of staff.

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

The findings appear to offer fresh evidence that the true level of violence in Scotland’s schools may be far higher than previously thought.

In February, The Scotsman revealed how education chiefs at Stirling Council had privately admitted there were doubts about the “validity” of its school violence statistics, because “some secondary schools don't report at all”.

Following further freedom of information requests, just more than half of the nation’s 32 local authorities have now released a breakdown of incidents by school.

It shows more than 130 schools recorded zero incidents of violence last year, with close to 300 others saying there were fewer than five.

The figures include some small, rural schools where violence may be rare, but they also feature the likes of Northfield Academy in Aberdeen, where staff voted to strike over the level of violence and inspectors found many pupils feel unsafe.

Northfield Academy reported fewer than five incidents of violence in 2023, 2021 and 2019, with no data available for 2020 and 2022. Separate figures showed there 16 “near misses” at the school last year.

Aberdeen City Council, which was recently the subject of a damning report on school violence by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, also reported there were fewer than five incidents last year at Lochside Academy, Dyce Academy, Hazlehead Academy and Aberdeen Grammar School.

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Only Bucksburn Academy and St Machar Academy had more than five, with no figures available for the other secondaries in the city.

In Edinburgh, meanwhile, the council provided data for 21 high schools, of which nine recorded fewer than five incidents last year, with a further eight recording fewer than 10.

The secondary schools with fewer than five incidents were Boroughmuir High, Broughton High, Firrhill High, Holy Rood RC High, Leith Academy, Liberton High, Portobello High, Queensferry High, and Wester Hailes High.

Highland Council’s data suggested there were only a handful of incidents at 11 of 18 secondaries, including Inverness High School and the city’s Millburn Academy, as well as Alness Academy, Dingwall Academy, Fortrose Academy, Glen Urquhart High, Grantown Grammar, Kinlochleven High, Mallaig High, Nairn Academy, and Tain Royal Academy.

In East Ayrshire, there was one incident reported at Kilmarnock Academy and one at Cumnock Academy last year, while in West Dunbartonshire there were two at Clydebank High, and in Midlothian there were fewer than five at Penicuik High. There were no incidents of violence reported at Kyle Academy in South Ayrshire.

South Lanarkshire Council did not name the schools, but did provide figures showing there were zero incidents of “physical or verbal” violence, specifically against staff, at four of its 17 secondaries last year, and fewer than five at another nine high schools.

In East Renfrewshire, there were fewer than five incidents in the last five years at Woodfarm High, St Ninian’s High, St Luke’s High, and there were five in five years at Mearns Castle.

Argyll and Bute Council reported fewer than five violent incidents last year at Lochgilphead High.

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Including primaries, there were seven schools with zero incidents in East Renfrewshire last year, 21 in North Ayrshire, 13 in Moray, 15 in South Ayrshire, 22 in South Lanarkshire, 18 in Perth and Kinross, 12 in Angus, seven in Dundee and two in East Lothian.Mike Corbett, NASUWT national official for Scotland, said: "These figures simply do not tally with the lived experience of our members across the country.

"It is worth reminding ourselves of the Health & Safety Executive's definition of work-related violence, which is ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’.

"On that basis, the daily swearing and misogynistic abuse that many teachers are suffering should be reported and that is clearly not happening.

"I have literally visited schools in Scotland within the last month where staff members shared the fact that, in some cases, they are being actively discouraged by school management from reporting violent or abusive incidents, while some teachers admitted they had stopped reporting such incidents because 'there are no consequences for these pupils'.”

Mr Corbett added that it was concluded at a school violence summit in September last year that there was “no shared understanding of what should be reported and how in terms of violent and abusive incidents”, yet the Scottish Government is still to produce new guidance.

He said Fife Council and a small number of others had introduced a simple system and encouraged staff to use it.

"The Scottish Government should be ensuring that such an approach is taken across the country and preparing the public for the inevitable rise in the number of reported incidents, which would be a truer reflection of the reality in Scottish schools,” he added.

Glasgow City Council said it could not provide a breakdown by school as the data “is neither captured separately, nor held centrally by the council or by anyone else on the council’s behalf".

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Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and West Lothian councils were among a few which refused to provide a breakdown because they said it could identify the children involved.

An Aberdeen City Council spokesperson said: "Our staff are encouraged to make reports of any incident of violence or aggression. We are confident the figures provided are an accurate reflection of the number of incidents".

Councillor Joan Griffiths, education convener at Edinburgh City Council, said: “It is an unfortunate reality that dysregulated behaviour can occur in children in schools but whenever this occurs, we take them very seriously.

"In addition to supporting staff and providing training, we have robust and extensive programmes to promote positive behaviour and to manage behaviours of concern, where it occurs, so we can try and reduce the number of incidents.”

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “A recent Scottish Government report on Behaviour in Scottish Schools highlighted that, while the majority of pupils were said to behave well, there has been a general deterioration in behaviour in Scottish schools since 2016.

"In Highland, this behaviour in most cases emerges from low level requirements such as children not following instructions rather than significant behaviour issues.

“Education committee members in February this year endorsed the council’s approach to addressing behaviour in schools through informed guidance and the promotion of positive relationships.

“At the beginning of the 2023/24 session, the way schools report pupil-staff Incidents changed with the introduction of new ‘Pupil-Staff Incident Reporting’ guidance. School staff are encouraged to report any incidents and guidance has been provided with a supporting training video.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson: “Scotland’s schools should be safe learning environments for all – violence and abusive 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.

“Crucially, work is well underway to bring forward a joint National Action Plan with COSLA to set out the range of actions needed at both local and national level, which will publish this spring. New guidance on mobile phones in schools will also be published in the coming weeks.”



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