I WAS the independent chair of the Review of Implementation of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act published by the Scottish Government in June 2020. My recommendations for action and change in that review remain relevant.

As your editorial ("What violence tells us: our schools need serious reform", The Herald, November 25) notes, investment and resources are, and will continue to be, a significant issue in the debate about mainstreaming.

Equally significant is the focus on exam results as the only measure of success in education, both for children and young people and for education professionals.

One-third of school-age children are identified as needing additional support. This is an astonishing figure, and I can think of no other public service that is in effect acknowledged to be designed for only two-thirds of the citizens who need it.

We should not be surprised that this has consequences.

The terms of the debate about how children are enabled to learn, flourish, and contribute to society need to change.

The question is not how we make a third of our children fit in with mainstream education, the question is how we change mainstream education to fit the reality of all children’s lives in Scotland.

Angela Morgan, Tullibody.

The fault lies with the system

I AM sure that anybody who works in a public-facing customer service role would agree that teachers have a right to be protected from violence and aggression in their workplace ("Increase in classroom violence laid bare by teachers", The Herald, November 24)”, The Herald, November 24). However, as a parent of two teenagers, I also think that the experience of vulnerable children within the school system merits further attention.

In our experience the years of schooling seem to move children rapidly from an environment in the early years that is more or less nurturing, towards one which is hostile, harsh, and excluding.

Many people are already observing impacts of the pandemic on learning, and perhaps this has exacerbated some trends that were previously of more marginal concern. Certainly the rise in numbers of children who now find it harder to attend school is revealing. And while the move away from labelling children as school refusers to recognising the complexities of Emotionally Based School Avoidance is to be welcomed, it seems we are really just at the start of discovering what problems we face, and what reforms may be needed.

Given the current levels of aggression and violence revealed by the teachers survey, one might consider that for any vulnerable child avoidance of school is a normal response to an extremely stressful situation. Then it might be a start to accept that a large part of the problem lies in the system and not the individual child.

With that purpose in mind I would echo your call for better levels of resources and staffing, so that we can rededicate our education system more effectively to the wellbeing and learning of all our children.

David Nicol, Stirling.

Read more: Violence in Scottish schools: we need reform now

More ASN support is a must

THE annual survey from the EIS highlighting the scale of violence in our schools should come as no surprise.

Just under two-thirds of those teachers surveyed said there were daily incidents of pupil-on-teacher violence or aggression in their school, and these had significantly increased over the last four years. Many of these incidents are linked to pupils with additional support needs (ASN), with numbers more than doubling since 2012, and now amounting to more than a third of children, who are also experiencing an increasing complexity of need. These numbers have been exacerbated by the traumatic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis, with us also facing a mental health emergency.

However, this is set against a background of acute under-resourcing to support their needs, with the number of specialist ASN teachers falling by 546 between 2012 and 2022 as just one example.

Additional funding is desperately needed to increase the support available to those with ASN, including specialist teachers, teaching assistants, mental health professionals and educational psychologists.

While we support the principle of mainstreaming, that all children be taught in mainstream classes unless exceptional circumstances apply, this has never been properly resourced. Those with ASN are therefore frequently being inadequately supported, which is also impacting on other pupils.

Violence against any member of school staff or another pupil is never acceptable, and it is critical that with the Scottish Budget being published next month, our schools are given the necessary resources to ensure that they are safe places in which to work and to learn.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Kenny Graham, Falkland House School; Lynn Bell, LOVE Learning; Stephen McGhee, Spark of Genius; Niall Kelly, Young Foundations, Edinburgh.

The Herald: Angela Bradley, General Secretary of the EISAngela Bradley, General Secretary of the EIS (Image: PA)

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Time to rethink CfE rationale

IT is painful indeed to read of Scottish schools plummeting in international rankings (“If the SNP can’t get education right, they are in deep trouble”, Rebecca McQuillan, The Herald, November 23) and of an increasing epidemic of distracting misbehaviour including physical assaults in the classroom. Given the tradition of excellence in Scottish schools it is ironic that these departures from excellence should coincide with the implementation in Scotland of a new curriculum entitled the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). One wonders whether the whole thinking behind the CfE needs to be re-examined.

For example, the General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Andrea Bradley, is quoted saying “Education shouldn’t hurt.” This sentiment seems to reflect the comfortable world inhabited by adults who have achieved the security of successful outcomes rather than the real educational requirements of school children who have not yet achieved that security and may feel great and even behaviour-challenging anxiety about doing so.

The achievement of many of life’s most valuable and positive outcomes hurts; childbirth, dental treatment, training to run faster or jump higher, climbing Munros in Scottish winters, learning French irregular verbs or Burns poetry by rote and so on. To teach schoolchildren otherwise may be a grave dereliction of duty towards them. No pain, no gain may be one of the most useful mantras to pass to our children.

Another example of questionable thinking behind the CfE is the experimental exclusion of the actual knowledge which school pupils normally require in order to achieve successful outcomes in adult life. English schools, for example, which have now overtaken Scottish schools in international and UK ranking, are served by a curriculum which provides schools, teachers and pupils with a detailed programme of what is agreed to be essential knowledge. Instead, the CfE describes the skills which are thought to be needed in order to acquire that knowledge but, for the most part, omits to identify the content of that knowledge.

There may have been some theoretical argument in favour of the change to CfE in Scotland but that change was made about 20 years ago and the painful outcomes described above are surely strong evidence that it was a wrong turning and that it has deprived a generation of Scottish school pupils of the educational experience enjoyed, or suffered, by previous generations and which took Scotland to the top strata of international ranking.

These painful outcomes might also force us to ask whether there may have been a serious wrong turning in the current policy regarding the streaming of pupils according to ability and inclination.

Michael Sheridan, Glasgow.

Read more: EIS teacher report reveals scale of violence in Scottish schools

Tackle this problem at source

THE results of the EIS survey are truly shocking but to me the content, and especially the headline on your editorial, seek to address the problem of societal issues within the school rather than trying to stop them ever reaching the classroom.

Your editorial does acknowledge that if wider society is becoming more confrontational and aggressive then this will spill over into the classroom. But schools are places where our young people should be learning and being prepared for productive and happy adult lives. But schools, and the teachers within them, are increasingly being challenged to cure societal ills, rather than these issues being tackled outside the educational sector.

By all means, teachers must be given more support, both from school authorities and parents, in the short to medium term but surely it makes sense to tackle the reasons for this disturbing trend of increasing violence and abuse at source; end of pipe solutions rarely work.

Willie Towers, Alford.