Nearly 15,000 violent incidents recorded in schools last year

Newly released figures reveal a five-year high is recorded violence in Scotland's schools.

Nearly 15,000 violent incidents recorded in Scottish schools last year iStock

Violence in schools has reached its highest level in five years with nearly 15,000 incidents reported last year, according to newly-released freedom of information requests.

The figures show 10,852 incidents were reported in Scotland’s primary schools in 2021/22 compared to 10,772 in 2018/19.

In secondary schools, there were 2,951 reports of violence in 2021/22 compared to 2,728 in 2018/19.

However, the true figure could be much higher as Glasgow – Scotland’s largest local authority – and South Ayrshire did not provide such data.

Some councils provided figures for violence against staff only while others gave data on incidents against pupils.

West Dunbartonshire did not provide a yearly breakdown but said since 2018 it has seen 2,139 reports of violence in primary schools and 130 in secondary schools.

Many of Scotland's schools have seen an increase in reported violence over the past five years.iStock

Other local authorities, such as East Renfrewshire combined primary and secondary statistics.

In total, for the 24 local authorities that gave statistics for 2021-22, 14,844 violent incidents were reported last year.

Some 9,784 incidents have so far been recorded in primaries and 2,542 in secondaries in the current year.

Moray and Fife recorded the highest level of primary school incidents, with 1,269 and 1,227 respectively in 2022/23 so far.

In secondary schools, Fife has seen 488 reports, followed by South Lanarkshire at 242.

Some areas saw a dramatic decrease in violence figures over the past five years, with Aberdeenshire primary schools going from 506 reports in 2018-19 to 177 last year. Its secondary school figures were roughly the same.

Others, such as South Lanarkshire saw primary school figures rise from 279 in 2018-19 to 430 in 2021-22. Its secondary school figures meanwhile decreased from 209 in 2018-19 to 85 last year.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats, which obtained the figures, warned violence in schools could become a “national scandal” without urgent action.

Willie Rennie, the party’s education spokesperson, said: “The footage from a Fife classroom of one young girl kicking another in the face will stay with me, probably forever

“It is deeply unsettling that similar instances are happening right across Scotland, particularly in primary schools.

“Since returning after months of lockdown, staff are almost universally reporting a sharp increase in behavioural problems among pupils.”

Rennie said if the Scottish Government does not address the issue now it will escalate into a “national scandal”

He added: “Scotland’s political and educational leadership is keeping tight-lipped about it all, but if the Scottish Government doesn’t address this now, it could quickly escalate into a national scandal.

“We need a considered approach that gets straight to the root cause of the violence.

“We also need to invest far more in specialist provision, such as classroom assistants, education psychologists and specialist teachers.”

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth said: “Any form of violence in our schools is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“As a former teacher, I fully understand the pressures faced by my ex-colleagues and vital work they do every day in our classrooms.”

Jenny Gilruth said she understood the pressure facing teachers.Scottish Parliament TV

She said she recently attended the conferences of teaching unions the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association and NASUWT to discuss the problems in classrooms.

She added: “I am determined to ensure that teachers and all school staff are better supported to deal with behaviour in our schools, including reporting of incidents.

“We will continue to engage with trade unions, and later this year we will publish updated material showing the national picture in relation to this issue.

“The Scottish Government works closely with local authorities to tackle violence and bullying in schools, supported by wider investment of more than £2 million on violence prevention.”

While local authorities have the statutory responsibility, she said ministers “very much recognise the need for partnership between central and local government on this issue”.

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