SNP response to rising school violence ‘straight out of The Thick of It’, says union chief

Mike Corbett of the NASUWT criticised the lack of action from the Scottish Government
Pupils making their way to school. Picture: Michael GillenPupils making their way to school. Picture: Michael Gillen
Pupils making their way to school. Picture: Michael Gillen

The Scottish Government’s response to the problem of rising school violence has been “straight out of The Thick of It”, a union chief has said.

Mike Corbett of the NASUWT teachers' union said there had been an angry backlash following a statement on the issue by Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth last year.

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He said pupil behaviour has worsened since the Covid pandemic and action needed to be taken.

In November, Ms Gilruth announced £900,000 of funding for councils to help train school staff to deal with “the new challenges in our schools post-Covid”.

She said a national action plan would be developed, which would set out a “range of practical suggestions and solutions”.

Mr Corbett, NASUWT's national official for Scotland, said three national summits on pupil violence had taken place in September, October and November.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen, he said: "Things seemed to be being treated seriously, and then we had the Cabinet Secretary’s statement to parliament towards the end of November, which was, ‘Oh, I’ll give £900,000 to train teachers more’, as if it was a teacher problem.

"And the classic, ‘And my plan is to sort this, to have an action plan’, which is straight out of The Thick of It, isn’t it? ‘My plan is to have a plan’.

"There was no surprise then that our members and other teachers were furious about that. There was quite a backlash to that.”

The former English teacher added: "We’re a serious organisation though, so we’ve not thrown our toys out the pram. There have been meetings to discuss this action plan, so again, we’ve pitched our ideas into that. As we speak, there’s still no sign of that action plan.

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"Here we are in March, and yet daily these incidents are happening and teachers are being affected, and of course the majority of other well-behaved pupils in classes are being affected and their education is being disrupted.

"So we need some action, and we’ve suggested a number of things to the Scottish Government, to the Cabinet Secretary, that might help.”

Ms Gilruth previously said violence in schools is a “really tricky challenge” and not an issue she can “solve overnight”.

However, opposition politicians have accused her of seeking to “wash her hands of the problem”.



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