All forms of violence are unacceptable and have no place in our schools or in society. We, and partners across the education sector, advocate an approach for schools and local authorities to work with pupils on the underlying reasons behind inappropriate behaviour. We want all pupils to respect their peers and staff, and we are supporting a number of programmes to promote positive relationships and tackle indiscipline, abuse and violence. That includes good behaviour management, restorative approaches and programmes to help develop social, emotional and behavioural skills.
Teaching unions such as the NASUWT and the Educational Institute of Scotland have raised serious concerns about the soaring levels of violence and aggression in classrooms. The unions have warned that the reduction in classroom assistants, combined with the Scottish National Party Government’s refusal to commission research into poor behaviour, are contributing factors. One union representative has even claimed that it is
“as if they don’t really want to know” the scale of the problem.
That is happening under the SNP’s watch. Will the cabinet secretary listen to the concerns that are being raised about the increased level of violence in our schools, and will the Scottish Government admit that cuts to council and education budgets are putting teachers at risk?
We now have 2,000 additional teaching staff in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers, and we have invested an additional £45 million since 2019-20 in order to enhance the provision of support staff in schools.
The latest edition of the “Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research” is an important part of our work. The most recent iteration of that research was due to be undertaken in 2020, but—as I hope the chamber will appreciate, given what was happening in schools at the time—the decision was taken to cancel that research because of Covid.
Arrangements are currently under way for the next wave of that research to be developed, and we are progressing that. It will provide an important research angle. In the meantime, we will work carefully with local authorities and our trade union partners to ensure that the policies and support are in place to help our teachers and young people ensure that there is no violence or misbehaviour in schools, if that can be avoided.
The Scottish Government wants all children and young people to develop mutually respectful, responsible and confident relationships. There are a number of targeted programmes to support positive behaviour in relationships and that help to address gender-based harassment in schools. One example of that is the mentors in violence prevention programme, which tackles gender stereotyping and attitudes. Equally Safe at School is another project, and the Fearless project educates and supports pupils to speak up about crime.
Those are important parts of the work that is being done, and the gender-based violence in schools working group is developing a national framework to ensure that there is consistent messaging on gender-based harassment for everyone who is working with young people.