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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 12:28 GMT
Review of school violence figures
School - generic
The latest figures on bad behaviour show a significant rise
A review has been ordered into the way violent classroom incidents are collated after figures appeared to show a dramatic increase.

Education Minister Peter Peacock said he was "deeply concerned" about the reliability of existing data.

The latest statistics seem to show school violence and threatening behaviour has again soared with nearly 7,000 incidents reported last year.

But Mr Peacock insisted classrooms were not like battlegrounds.

The minister added: "Close analysis of the statistics does not show evidence that violent incidents are actually increasing. I need the facts."

Mr Peacock has asked former Educational Institute of Scotland general secretary Jim Martin and school behaviour expert Professor Pamela Munn to advise the review.

2003 - 6,899
2002 - 5,412
2001 - 4,501
1999 - 1,898
Professor Munn will also carry out research into teachers' views on disruptive behaviour and 1,000 teachers will be asked to record the seriousness and frequency of incidents.

The figures, published on Tuesday, showed there were 6,899 "incidents" against local authority school staff last year - with 35% of the incidents occurring in primary schools.

An "incident" is defined as any case in which a teacher or other school employee is abused, threatened or assaulted by a pupil, parent, or anyone else, in the course of employment.

Incidents include physical attack and "threatening behaviour", and verbal abuse accounted for 25% of all the reported incidents.

But officials said that school staff may have different views on what constitutes an incident and what one teacher may report another may ignore.

'Top priority'

And in some cases, there was no "malicious" behaviour in an incident.

Last year's total compares with 5,412 incidents in 2002, 4,501 in 2001 and 1,898 in 1999, the first year when information began to be collected by all local authorities.

But officials said the increase does not necessarily show a rise in bad behaviour.

It may instead reflect local authorities improving their reporting procedures, more training and an increased emphasis by schools and teaching unions on the importance of reporting incidents.

Each local authority has its own system for collecting information, based on Scottish Executive guidelines.

In this year's figures, 20 councils reported a reduction in the number of incidents and 11 reported an increase.

Peter Peacock
Peter Peacock said he was concerned by the figures
Just four local authorities accounted for three-quarters of the entire increase for last year.

Mr Peacock said he had made improving discipline a top priority in Scotland's schools but he needed high-quality information on the real level of indiscipline.

He said: "Having looked at the national and local figures on violence and anti-social behaviour against teachers, I am deeply concerned about the reliability of this data in particular.

"It is clear that there are still huge differences in the way that councils approach the reporting of incidents and collect data."

Local authorities welcomed the minister's move.

'Situation untenable'

The Reverend Ewan Aitken, education spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: "We are determined to get behind these statistics and see what they really mean at the chalk-face or in the playground."

But Tory education spokesman James Douglas-Hamilton said: "This situation is completely untenable."

He accused the executive of failing teachers who were in desperate need of protection.

Mr Douglas-Hamilton said: "When will Labour and Lib Dem ministers realise that this problem will only get worse unless they give more power back to head teachers to deal with unruly pupils in an effective and appropriate manner?

"There are now a staggering nine times more attacks on school staff than there were in 1997 and much of this has been as a direct result of the government's previous inclusion policy which made it almost impossible for head teachers to exclude unruly pupils."

Fiona Hyslop of the Scottish National Party said: "In 1998, when there were 743 reported incidents of violence in schools, the government announced a review; in 2000, when the number of incidents had more than doubled, the government announced an action plan; a year later, when the figure had climbed to 3,083, the government announced a discipline battle plan.

"By 2002, the problem had risen to 4,501 incidents and another action plan was announced. Last year, 5,412 incidents had been recorded and a discipline task group was announced.

"Now just days after the executive announced the appointment of yet another tsar, this time for school discipline, the figures have risen yet again."

BBC Scotland's Fiona Walker
"The education minister has ordered a review of how the statistics are put together"

Indiscipline review promised
22 Sep 03 |  Scotland
Minister's vow on unruly pupils
21 May 03 |  Scotland
Concern over classroom violence
30 Jan 03 |  Scotland

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