Teachers struggle to stem tide of texting in classroom as report highlights rise in ‘abusive’ mobile phone use

Rise in pupils using mobile phones 'abusively'. Picture: Sean Bell/Big Scotland
Rise in pupils using mobile phones 'abusively'. Picture: Sean Bell/Big Scotland
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TEACHERS are being undermined by unruly and abusive pupils and the growing use of mobile phones, a new report has found.

The Behaviour in Scottish Schools study, which was published yesterday by the Scottish Government, said nearly 80 per cent of teachers in secondary schools and two-thirds of those in primaries were forced to deal with “low-level” disruptive behaviour at least twice a day.

While it was noted that serious disruptive behaviour in the classroom had decreased since 2006, the report said there had been a rise in the proportion of teachers encountering pupils using mobile phones “abusively” in the past three years.

There had also been an increase in the number of secondary headteachers experiencing physical violence, up from 1 per cent of schools in 2009 to 3 per cent in 2012.

It was also noted that teachers were concerned about a “perceived increase in the incidence of severe mental health issues, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autistic spectrum disorders”. Staff found the behaviour of these pupils to be “particularly challenging”, the report said.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, said the report highlighted the persistent problem of indiscipline in schools.

He said: “This unacceptable behaviour by a small number of pupils continues to blight the working lives of teachers, and damages the educational experience for the vast majority of pupils, who are well behaved and eager to learn.

“Verbal abuse of teachers, together with other types of unacceptable behaviour such as misuse of mobile phones or a refusal to follow instructions, are persistent problems that take up far too much of a teacher’s time.”

However, he added: “Thankfully, serious disruption and violence continue to be a much less common problem than persistent low-level disruption, such as texting in class.”

The report said that while violence in schools was a “very serious matter”, the absolute number of incidents was small, with just eight out of 257 secondary headteachers reporting attacks in the past 12 months, up from three out of 246 in 2009.

According to the report, the most common type of low-level disruption was “running in the corridor”, followed by “using mobile phones against school policies”, something that is seen by 42 per cent of secondary teachers every day.

However, only seven out of 876 primary teachers and one out of 2,022 secondary teachers had experienced physical violence in the classroom during the previous week. The most common form of serious disruptive behaviour directed at staff members was “general verbal abuse”, the report said.

In contrast, pupil-to-pupil physical violence and aggression and general verbal abuse were often encountered in the classroom and around the school by both primary and secondary staff.

About a third (34 per cent) of primary teachers and just under half (47 per cent) of support staff had witnessed verbal abuse towards other pupils in the classroom in the past week.

Minister for learning Dr Alasdair Allan said: “This research shows that teachers find the overwhelming majority of Scottish pupils are well behaved. When these findings are considered alongside the 40 per cent drop in the number of exclusions since 2006, we see that behaviour is continuously improving in our schools.”