Violence schools Scotland: SNP education secretary Jenny Gilruth accused of acting like 'bystander' while violence soars

Opposition MSPs express ‘dismay’ amid ‘lack of meaningful action’ claim

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth has been accused of behaving like a “bystander” while staff and pupil safety is put at risk by soaring violence and disruptive behaviour in Scottish schools.

The SNP minister came under fire on Wednesday after giving her response in Holyrood to a long-awaited report which confirmed a dramatic deterioration in the behaviour of pupils in schools since the last in-depth study in 2016, with violence found to be a particular issue in primary schools.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Gilruth promised £900,000 for staff training, moves to strengthen reporting and recording of incidents, an initiative to respond to growing concerns related to misogyny, and a commitment to develop a more detailed national action plan.

Education and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA WireEducation and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Education and Skills Secretary Jenny Gilruth. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

But opposition MSPs criticised the failure of the Government to take more urgent and “meaningful action”.

Labour education spokeswoman Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “I can’t hide my disappointment today. I feel teachers will feel blamed, parents will feel side-lined and pupils could feel abandoned.

"Many of the issues mentioned have been known for a long time, so I imagine school staff, pupils and parents will be wondering why the announcement today is for the development of a plan, rather than a plan.”She added: “At a time when leadership is needed, today’s statement feels a bit like the Cabinet secretary believes she’s a bystander.”

Ms Gilruth said she “took issue” with the remark, highlighting a series of debates and summits held on the subject since she took the post in March.

"I don’t employ Scotland’s teachers and nor do I wish to, so some of the action that needs to be taken requires to be taken at local authority level, which is why we will need to come back with the agreed action plan,” she said.

"I expect to come back to parliament, subject to parliamentary approval, to confirm that action plan, but it will need to be engaged with, of course, with Cosla, but also with teachers, with parents.”

Conservative education spokesman Liam Kerr said: "Many listening will be concerned at what amounts to plenty of talk but precious few solutions.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"There is still no new guidance for school staff. There’s still no review of exclusions policies, as many stakeholders have called for, and there is no plan for dealing with attendance issues.”

The national action plan is expected to be drawn up next year, and Ms Gilruth suggested it could “consider in more detail” the nation’s exclusions policy, amid concerns over a perceived lack of consequences in response to poor behaviour.

However, she ruled out any return to “punitive” approaches.

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP said: “Today’s statement just misses the point.

“It’s not more training that staff need, it’s more support resources, like educational psychologists and specialist teachers.”

Ms Gilruth was criticised earlier this month for delaying a debate on proposed reform on Scotland’s school qualifications, in part to allow schools time to deal with a rise in poor behaviour and falling attendance levels.

On Wednesday, Labour’s Alex Rowley said: “Teachers up and down Scotland will be dismayed that point one of a five-point plan is to make a plan.

"How many plans will it take before teachers get the support that they need?”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.