A survey of Scottish teachers has laid bare the levels of violence and aggression in the nation’s schools.

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, carried out a detailed survey of teachers’ experiences. The subsequent report, which runs to more than 100 pages, paints a stark picture of unacceptable behaviour and under-resourcing across the country.

The survey was distributed to all EIS school branches in Scotland, with 875 responses received by the set deadline. This represents around a third of the 2461 schools in Scotland

A total of 63.2% of respondents said that there are “daily” incidents of pupil-on-teacher violence or aggression in their school. The figures were higher in primary schools (63.7%) than secondary schools (56.9%), but highest in additional needs schools (90.4%).

A further 19.5% reported that such incidents happen on a weekly basis, while 5.1% said they occur monthly. Just 11.6% said that incidents occur only “rarely”.

Respondents were also clear that incidents of violence and aggression are now more common than they were four years ago. A total of 88% said that incidents have increased in that period, with the majority of those reporting that the increase had been ‘significant’.

Physical violence against teachers was the most common type of incident reported by primary schools (85.1%) and special schools (86.5%), but was highlighted by just 5% of secondary schools, where the use of intimidatory, obscene or derogatory language towards teachers was the most commonly reported issue.

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Verbal threats and physical intimidation towards teachers were also highlighted as a problem in more than half of schools.

Union members were also asked whether prejudice-based incidents – such as those driven by racism, sexism, sectarianism, or anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes – had increased over the past four years. 46.9% said that there had been no change, but 23.6% said that incidents had increased slightly, while 15.8% reported that they had increased significantly.

Survey responses also revealed that teachers face violence and aggression from parents and carers on a regular basis.

Half of schools reported verbal threats to teachers, while nearly two-thirds highlighted ‘intimidatory, obscene or derogatory’ comments aimed at teachers. A similar proportion said that teachers have been subject to intimidatory, threatening or derogatory emails, phone calls, messages or letters. Social media was also identified as a source of such comments by half of schools.

Most seriously, 34.4% of schools reported that teachers had been subject to “physically intimidatory or aggressive behaviour” from parents or carers, and 4.7% said that issue had escalated to “physical violence”.

More than half of schools reported that such incidents happen weekly (12%), monthly (17.4%) or termly (23.9%).

The statistics also suggest that incidents of pupil-on-pupil violence and aggression are common in schools, with just 6.3% of respondents saying that they “rarely” happen while 74.4% said that they happen on a daily basis. In terms of frequency, 61.9% said that such incidents have increased significantly over the past four years, and a further 22.7% said that they have increased slightly.

More than half of schools also reported that prejudice-based violence and aggression between pupils has increased.

The survey also sought teachers’ views on the causes of violent and aggressive incidents, with the overwhelming majority stating that unmet additional support needs are exacerbating the problem. This was considered to be the cases in 96.3% of primary, 89.1% of secondaries, and 92.3% of special schools. A clear majority (62.4%) also identified this as a contributory factor with regards to violence and aggressive behaviour from parents and carers.

A range of possible policies to support pupils and teachers in dealing with violent and aggressive behaviour was also presented to teachers.

A total of 75.5% of primary, 67.3% of secondary and 65.4% of special school responses backed increased support staff for pupils with additional support needs. More than half of respondents from all sectors also believed that reduced class sizes could help to address the problem of violence and aggression in schools, with most support found amongst secondary teachers (72.8%).

Other common suggestions for improvement included better access to educational psychologists and support services such as CAHMS, greater support from outside agencies such as social work, increased teacher numbers, and better policies and procedures at both school and council level.

Commenting on the results of the survey, EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said:

“We all want our schools to be nurturing, welcoming places, where pupils can learn and staff can work in a safe and secure environment. Sadly, the evidence from this major national survey of EIS branches reveals that violence and aggression is a serious and growing problem in schools across Scotland. This must be treated seriously, and tackled quickly, by the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure that school pupils and staff can feel safe and be safe in our schools.

“The EIS will be sharing the results of this survey with the Scottish Government and with each of Scotland’s local authorities, together with our recommendations which set out a roadmap towards a better future for our schools. Our young people, and all those working in our schools, have the right to expect action to address the challenges identified in our report: put simply, education shouldn’t hurt.”