National Survey of Teachers Lays Bare Scale of Violence Problem in Schools

Created on: 23 Nov 2023 | Last modified: 08 Jan 2024

A major national survey of Scotland’s teachers, carried out by the EIS has laid bare the scale of the growing problem of violence and aggression in Scotland’s schools.

The survey was carried out over August and September, and EIS branches in almost 900 schools took part across all sectors – representing around 45% of EIS members throughout Scotland.

The EIS represents 65,000 teaching professionals across all sectors of education.

The results of the survey are stark, and paint a worrying picture of day-to-day life in schools:

  • 82.7% of branches said there are incidents of ‘violence and aggression’ every week in school.
  • Over 72% of branches stated that the amount of ‘violence and aggression’ had grown in the last four years, compared to levels before the Covid pandemic.
  • Fewer than 11% of branches felt that teachers were ‘always’ supported after a pupil-on-teacher ‘violent and aggressive’ incident had been reported.
  • Over a quarter of branches (26.1%) stated that teachers were never supported after a ‘violent and aggressive’ incident.
  • A minority of branches (42.9%) thought that pupil victims were ‘well supported’ after a ‘violent and aggressive’ incident was reported.
  • Over half of branches (53.3%) reported parent/carer incidents of violence and aggression on teachers happened termly, monthly or weekly.
  • Just over half of branches (50.5%) responded that parent/carer-on-teacher ‘violence and aggression’ was becoming more frequent.
  • Almost all branches, 99%, agreed that ‘violent, aggressive or disruptive behaviour, including persistent low-level disruption, in your school’ has an effect on pupils' learning.
  • Almost 80% of branches reported (79%) that members of the branch had considered leaving teaching as a result of the violence and aggression in school.

Commenting on the results of the survey, EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said, "We all want our schools to be nurturing, welcoming places, where pupils can learn and staff can work in a safe and secure environment.

"Sadly, the evidence from this major national survey of EIS branches reveals that violence and aggression is a serious and growing problem in schools across Scotland. This must be treated seriously, and tackled quickly, by the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure that school pupils and staff can feel safe and be safe in our schools."

Ms Bradley continued, "Young people have faced extremely turbulent and challenging times over the past decade, through no fault of their own. Lingering policies of austerity, the continuing scourge of poverty, and declining mental health, together with the profound impact of the Covid pandemic have combined to create a society where many young people feel alienated, isolated and distressed.

"Successive governments – both at Westminster and Holyrood – have failed to sufficiently prioritise the needs of young people, leaving many pupils in our schools struggling to cope with the many challenges they face in their everyday lives. For a small but growing minority this is increasingly manifesting itself in unruly, disruptive or violent behaviour, including during the school day and aimed at staff or other pupils."

Ms Bradley added, "It is societal issues that lead to violence, and there must be a societal solution if the problem of in-school violence is to be tackled successfully. The challenges in schools reflect the challenges that our young people face in society and in their communities where cuts to services continue daily, and schools cannot be expected to plug the glaring gaps and solve these difficulties alone.

"Schools need support and resources to help to mitigate against the challenges that pupils face in their daily lives, including additional teachers and other professionals who provide specialist support, to help young people facing difficulties linked to poverty and deprivation, and to support the vast numbers of young people who now have recognised additional needs, including very many whose needs are expressed through challenging behaviour.

"In recent years, deep cuts to school staffing – particularly amongst specialist staff – have created a situation where too many young people are simply not receiving the support they so desperately need, are frustrated and alienated as a result, and consequently teachers are facing a rising tide of indiscipline, an increasing amount of it violent and aggressive in nature."

Ms Bradley concluded, "The EIS launched its Stand Up for Quality Education campaign earlier this year, to address the challenges that our schools continue to face. The growing problem of violence in and aggression in schools can be linked back to each of the campaign’s key aims: tackling pupil indiscipline; addressing the lack of additional support for young people who need it; and recruiting more teachers and support staff to address the current crippling workload and emotional pressures on teachers, which combined present a real and present health and safety risk.

"We will be sharing the results of this major survey with the Scottish Government and with each of Scotland’s local authorities, together with our recommendations which set out a roadmap towards a better future for our schools. Our young people, and all those working in our schools, have the right to expect action to address the challenges identified in our report: put simply, Education shouldn’t hurt."

A copy of the full survey report is attached, and is now available online.