Safety at School (Teachers and Pupils)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th November 2022.

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Photo of Russell Findlay Russell Findlay Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to keep teachers and pupils safe while at school. (S6O-01561)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The safety of our children, young people and staff in school is of paramount importance.

The Scottish Government and partners across education advocate for schools and local authorities to work with pupils in identifying the underlying reasons for inappropriate behaviour.

We all want pupils to behave in a respectful manner towards their peers and staff, and we have produced guidance for local authorities and schools to prevent exclusions and manage behaviour. However, it is for schools to decide what action should be taken, depending on the individual circumstances of each case.

Photo of Russell Findlay Russell Findlay Conservative

In Renfrewshire, over a single year, 36 teachers were assaulted by pupils, with 28 of those attacks being in primary schools. Violence has reached such extreme levels in one Glasgow secondary school that teachers have voted for strike action because they do not feel safe. There remains a real risk that proposed Scottish National Party budget cuts to justice will lead to the loss of police officers in school. Will the cabinet secretary explain how cutting campus cops will help teachers to stay safe?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

For the avoidance of doubt, and particularly for the benefit of Mr Rennie, we do not have campus cops in our schools. Mr Rennie has left the chamber, but he has had an interest in this area in the past.

We do not have campus cops in our schools. We have police officers who work with a school—primary or secondary—on issues that are of interest and use.

It is important, of course, to ensure that police officers support our schools wherever necessary. Where there is a requirement for a police officer to carry out that type of role in a school, they do just that very well and with great support at the moment. We will continue to support our teachers to ensure that no one is suffering verbal or physical abuse in our schools.

Schools and local authorities have an absolute responsibility to decide what actions should be taken. Those actions might include involving the police, if that is appropriate, but that is a decision for the school. That would be very different from using pupil equity funding to support joint work with a police officer.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

Where does violence in schools sit with the Scottish Government in terms of the green-amber-red risk register?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I said in my previous answer that there is absolutely no excuse for violence in our schools. All forms of violence are absolutely unacceptable. There is a clear policy, at Government level and, I think, at local government level, that that type of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable. That is why we have in place the guidance that we have, and it is why we continue to have very close dialogue with the unions and local authorities to see whether anything else can be done on the issue.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

On the back of Russell Findlay’s question and the cabinet secretary’s answer, can we have an update on when we should expect the next iteration of the behaviour in Scottish schools research—BISSR—and how the findings of the first research impacts on Scottish Government policy?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I am pleased to confirm that, after a delay caused by the pandemic, we have recently awarded the contract for the next phase of behaviour in Scottish schools research to ScotCen Social Research. Officials are working with analysts and the contractor to make arrangements for the fieldwork, which will start next year. They expect the research report by the end of 2023.