Opposition MSPs have dismissed the Scottish Government's "plan for a plan" to tackle poor behaviour in Scotland's schools.

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth announced the development of a multi-year plan in Parliament on Wednesday, following months of summits and research into disruptive behaviour in the nation's classrooms.

But she was criticised for coming forward with "precious few solutions on tackling violence in our schools."

Her announcement of £900,000 in new funding for staff to tackle poor behaviour and attendance was rubbished by the EIS, who said the money worked out at roughly £300 a school.

READ MORE: Teachers blame influencers like Andrew Tate for misogyny spike

The statement in Holyrood followed a grim report published on Wednesday, detailing a “rising tide of disruptive behaviour, aggression and violence.”

The Behaviour In Scottish Schools Research (BISSR) found that around a third of staff had experienced general verbal abuse from students in the past seven days, while 16% had had to deal with physical aggression, and 11% saw physical violence towards themselves or other staff.

In addition, two-thirds (67%) of the teachers and school support workers surveyed said they had encountered general verbal abuse between pupils within the past week, while 59% had dealt with physical aggression between students and 43% had experienced physical violence between pupils in the classroom in the last week.

The Herald:

In her statement to the parliament, Ms Gilruth pointed out that the research showed that both primary and secondary school staff have been “reporting generally good behaviour amongst most pupils.”

“I think it's important to keep that big picture in mind,” she told MSPs.

The minister noted the research’s findings that the pandemic had “not created challenging behaviour, but rather it has exacerbated the conditions in which allow it to flourish.”

“Similarly, action for children reported earlier this month as a cost of living crisis has deepened more children are going to school hungry,” she added.

Ms Girluth told MSPs the status quo was not an option. “Scotland schools are not run by me as Cabinet Secretary and nor would I wish it to be so.

“It is imperative therefore the local authorities are engaged in the action required to improve behaviour and relationships in Scotland skills.

“The report mentioned lack of support from some local authorities and disparate approaches to behaviour management policies.

“To that end, we will develop a national action plan to set out the parameters to improve behaviour and support better relationships in Scotland schools.

“The plan will include a range of practical suggestions and solutions. It will be established with representatives from education, parents and carers, teaching unions, directors of education, and of course with COSLA.”

The minister said the multi-year plan would also be informed by the experiences of children and young people themselves.

READ MORE: EIS school violence data must be a wake-up call for Scotland

Ms Gilruth, a former teacher, also raised the spike in misogynistic behaviour noted by the BISSR report. 

“My former colleagues talk of the corrosive impact of social media influencers poisoning everyday teaching with a type of intolerance towards women that we all thought long over," she said.

“And this has wider implications for a workforce who are predominantly female.”

She said staff needed to be “pragmatic about reporting” incidents in the classroom.

“Without consistent and accurate recording of incidents, there will be limited evidence for schools and councils to use to support improvement.

“So today, I encourage in the strongest possible terms more accurate reporting of all incidents of inappropriate, abusive or violent behaviour in our schools. I recognise in doing so initially, the data on incidents will increase.

“However, it remains my view that it is necessary for us to continue to strengthen the evidence base in order to inform improvements at school and at local authority level.”

The £900,000 in new funding for staff to tackle poor behaviour and attendance, will be provided directly to local authorities to "train support staff to respond to new challenges and develop behaviour management strategies in schools post Covid."

READ MORE: Scottish teachers speak out on violence in schools

Tory shadow education secretary Liam Kerr said the money would “barely touch the sides.”

“This statement was full of warm words, but precious few solutions on tackling violence in our schools.

“There’s still no specific guidance for school staff, there’s still no review of exclusion policies – which many stakeholders have called for – and there’s no plan for dealing with absenteeism.”

“The Behaviour in School report released earlier this week laid bare the rise in school violence on the SNP’s watch, but the education secretary has kicked the can down the road once again,” he added.

Labour’s education spokesperson, Pam Duncan Glancy said Ms Gilruth was acting like a “bystander” rather than someone with the power to act.

She said: “I can't hide my disappointment today. I feel teachers will feel blamed, parents will feel sidelined and pupils could feel abandoned.

"Many of the issues mentioned have been known for a long time and so I imagined school staff pupils and parents will be wondering why the announcement today is for the development of a plan rather than a plan.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie said the statement “just misses the point.”

He added “It’s not more training that staff need, it’s more support resources, like educational psychologists and specialist teachers. There is not much at all that’s new on boundaries and consequences.

“Does the Cabinet Secretary really think that this plan is going to cut violence in schools by the time of the next survey?”

EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley was scathing. She said: “Today’s statement did not contain a great deal of detail on the practical steps to be taken and the increased support to be delivered to schools to tackle pupil indiscipline, aggression and violence.”

She added: “The Cabinet Secretary did announce an additional £900k for training, to be split between Scotland’s 32 local authorities. This amounts to less than £30,000 per local authority or worse still, £360 per school. 

"It won’t nearly touch the sides. 

"We look forward to learning what further resource will follow to fund the employment of additional teachers and support for teachers, as they endeavour to meet the needs of children and young people amidst environments that are putting their health and safety directly at risk at the same time as underlining the quality of pupils’ learning.”