MSPs have been briefed on teachers in Scotland reporting an increase in violence they receive from pupils ahead of Scotland’s first national summit on behaviour in schools tomorrow.

NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, who commissioned the report which is being seen by MSPs, is calling for unambiguous backing to be given to schools in taking appropriate sanctions, including expulsions, for violent and abusive behaviour.

Nearly four in ten teachers reported experiencing violence or physical abuse from pupils in the previous 12 months. This included being spat at, headbutted, punched, kicked, and having furniture including chairs being thrown at them. 

NASUWT’s General Secretary has said the first National Summit on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools must be a “starting point” for change in tackling issues with pupil behaviour.

The briefing also contains 10 recommendations from the union to MSPs which includes strengthening national guidance on behaviour management, ensuring all schools have a behaviour management policy and establishing a consistent system monitoring, recording and responding to instances of violence. 

The union also want MSPs to commission independent research into the causes of poor behaviour, including whether it stems from the pandemic, and ensure appropriate support is available to staff who experience abuse from pupils.

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It comes after sustained pressure by the union for action on the increased instances of violence and abuse in Scotland’s schools.

93% of teachers surveyed said they felt the number of pupils exhibiting violent and abusive behaviours has increased.

As well as the physical abuse, 94% of teachers surveyed reported being verbally abused, which encompassed being sworn at, receiving threats of serious violence including being shot, and receiving racist or sexist insults.

Less than half of teachers say they reported all incidents of abuse, both verbal, and physical, to their manager - mainly due to not believing that anything would be done about it, or the reporting process being too time consuming and bureaucratic.

Another reason for not reporting was a fear that their capabilities as a professional would be called into question. Over half of respondents say they are made to feel to blame if they have an issue with poor pupil behaviour, while 67% said the culture in school assumes that poor pupil behaviour is part of the job and should be expected. 

Of those who did support instances, a quarter felt they were dealt with appropriately, but sufficient action was not taken.

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Specific instances of violence which MSPs are being briefed on include a teacher who has been hit in the abdomen by a pupil with a window pole. In another case a teacher was left unconscious after being attacked with a scooter and kicked in the chest.

The briefing report given to MSPs on the issue also looks at the impact increased instances of violence from pupils is having on those working in the profession. More than half of teachers asked said they now feel less confident working with pupils.

The most common result of experiencing pupil violence was the way it affected teachers’ morale and enthusiasm for their job, which was reported by 83% of teachers. 

Also highlighted is the mental health impact on teachers, with more than half suffering from anxiety and over a fifth from depression. 10% of teachers had taken time off due to mental health issues and 12% due to stress.

Concerns that the issue of school violence could drive teachers to leave the profession is also addressed by the report, which cites that 46% say they are “seriously considering leaving the profession.” 

The MSP briefing also takes a look at views from teachers on what the factors are affecting pupil behaviour, with 61% citing poor socialisation skills post-Covid. Cited more commonly however were ineffective restorative behaviour programmes with 79% and lack of proper policies and procedures to deter unacceptable behaviour.

NASUWT will be giving evidence at the summit, which has been convened by the Scottish Government. 

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Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: “The Summit must be the starting point for real, tangible and lasting change in our schools in tackling pupil behaviour.

“We know from our relationships with teachers and school leaders what works and there are many schools which act incredibly effectively to manage pupil behaviour.

“Ensuring that this good practice is the norm across all schools in Scotland must be the shared aim of everyone involved in this Summit.”

Mike Corbett, NASUWT National Official Scotland, said: “The Summit needs to mark the start of a culture change in how seriously the issue of pupil behaviour is taken by ministers and employers.

“It must lead to significant and lasting change in terms of a sustained reduction in poor pupil behaviour and better protection for teachers from violence and abuse. Levels of serious disorder are on the rise and this cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.

“Currently in too many schools approaches to managing pupil behaviour have become synonymous with no sanctions or consequences for pupils. This approach fails both pupils and teachers and given the rising levels of violence and abuse is clearly proving ineffective.

“Tomorrow’s summit must be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue with the teaching profession in how we can all work together to ensure all of Scotland’s schools are safe havens for both pupils and staff.”