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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 14:27 GMT
Concern over classroom violence
School yard - generic
There are worries over the rise of violence in primaries
Violent or abusive behaviour towards school staff in Scotland has risen significantly, according to figures from the Scottish Executive.

A total of 5,412 incidents were reported in 2001/02 and more than one third of them were in primary schools.

The executive has been accused of failing to address the problem amid opposition claims there is an incident every 15 minutes.

The new figures reveal the number of attacks has risen by 20%, despite the executive spending 10m a year in an effort to tackle indiscipline in schools.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • 37% of incidents occurred within the primary sector, 30% in the secondary sector, 32% in the special sector and 2% in pre-school centres

  • Two thirds of the incidents reported involved teaching staff, which equates to 64 incidents per 1,000 teachers

  • 237 incidents, around 4% of the total, were notified to the police

  • 98% of incidents occurred in school hours, with 50% taking place in the classroom

  • 44% of the incidents involved physical violence alone, 26% involved both physical violence and verbal abuse, and 29% involved verbal abuse alone.

  • Less than 1% of incidents were reported as racially motivated, with a similar number sexually motivated

  • In 4% of all incidents, the perpetrator was recorded as a parent.

Four years ago, when all authorities began to keep records, the annual total was just 1,898.

Education Minister Cathy Jamieson suggested the rise could be partly attributed to better training and reporting procedures.

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson insisted the problem was being tackled

Ms Jamieson also insisted the executive was serious about tackling the problem

She said: "We are investing 10m a year to improve discipline in schools.

"The money is being used to implement the recommendations of the Discipline Task Group, including the introduction of pupil support bases, additional staff to supervise pupils between lessons and home-school link workers.

"These measures will make a real and lasting difference and create a more positive ethos in every school."

She added: "This is vital to the creation of a safe environment where teachers, school staff and pupils are able to work without fear for their own safety."

But Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith accused the executive of failing the country's teachers.

He said: "There are now a mind-boggling seven times more attacks on teachers than there were in 1997 and this is a direct result of the government's inclusion policy which makes it almost impossible for headteachers to exclude unruly pupils.

Brian Monteith
Brian Monteith said there was an incident every 15 minutes

"The alarming truth is that there is roughly one attack on a teacher in a Scottish school every 15 minutes.

"Equally worrying, a teacher is assaulted by a parent every school day."

The Scottish National Party also attacked the executive's record, saying it was just another example of "pen pushing, instead of taking action".

Education spokesman Mike Russell said: "Since Labour came to power we have had a succession of education ministers and a succession of discipline initiatives. Meanwhile the number of reported incidents of violence have risen dramatically year on year."

Education Correspondent Martha Fairlie
"One in seven attacks involved physical violence."
See also:

23 Jan 02 | Scotland
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
05 May 00 | Scotland
16 Feb 00 | Scotland
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