Pupils ‘no longer face consequences for bad behaviour’ warns teachers’ leader

BAD behaviour in Scottish schools has hit unprecedented levels amid claims pupils no longer believe they will be punished for disobedience, a teachers' leader has claimed.

Kevin Campbell, president of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), blamed the impact of poverty and budget cuts for mounting cases of teacher abuse, drugs and violence.

And he warned the current trend of trying to resolve issues through dialogue rather than exclusion had created a culture where pupils felt there were no consequences for their actions.

The Scottish Government said no teacher should have to put up with disruptive behaviour, but stressed most pupils were well behaved.

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Last month, a survey by the SSTA found verbal abuse had affected seven out of 10 staff members while one in five said they had been assaulted by pupils during their career. In one case, a pupil threw a chisel at a teacher.

In December, research by Ipsos MORI Scotland found school disruption was getting worse with teachers blaming trolling on social media and poor parenting.

However, it found the majority of pupils were well behaved with common complaints focusing on low level disruption such as talking out of turn as well as a deterioration in manners and greater defiance.

Mr Campbell, who will raise the issue in his speech to the SSTA's annual conference in Crieff, said: "In my opinion behaviour and relationships in our schools has reached an all-time low.

"The causes of this ever burgeoning issue are manifold, but for me, chief amongst them is deprivation. In the community where I myself work, people are beset with issues with drugs, alcohol and violence and every day I see the consequences.

"Pupils are extreme in their disrespect for staff and each other, there are severe issues with drugs and many pupils are unable to control their violence."

Mr Campbell, who teaches in Fife, said staff faced with such difficulties were no longer able to cope and said a "huge number" of parents no longer engaged with schools. That meant issues which went unchallenged could spread impacting on all staff and pupils.

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He said the consequences of poverty were exacerbated by "never ending cycles of budget cuts" with a reduction in pupil support staff.

And he criticised the Scottish Government's Pupil Equity Fund, which targets money at schools in disadvantaged areas, saying it "did not come close" to addressing the problem and was becoming a "bureaucratic headache" for staff.

"It has opened the door to free marketeering in our schools with various experts and interest groups vying to secure a share of the money," he said.

"To do our job we need proper funding in our schools, we need time to teach, we need resources and experts to cater for the complex and diverse issues our children can suffer."

Mr Campbell called on school management teams and councils to deal more strongly with the most disruptive pupils and with parents "who simply won’t engage with the school".

And he called for a national framework to set out clear expectations of behaviour, how to manage it and how to record incidents.

Eileen Prior, executive director of parent body Connect, said the combined efforts of school, community and other services could help address the issues raised, but adequate funding and staffing of schools was "essential".

She said: “Research shows the vast majority of parents want the best for their children and our experience, contrary to these comments, is that families in deprived communities feel that particularly keenly.

"We must be careful not to conflate poverty and low income with the impacts of poverty being referenced here. Chaotic and challenged households do not just exist in deprived areas."

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Joanna Murphy, chairwoman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said families suffering from poverty should not be viewed in a negative light.

She said: "Relationships take time to develop and many different strategies may need to be explored to reach parents and families who struggle with poverty in every aspect of their daily life."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Most pupils behave well in school, but teachers should not have to tolerate disruptive behaviour. Our refreshed guidance to prevent exclusions places greater importance on preventative approaches.

“We are also committing £750 million during the course of this Parliament to tackle the poverty related attainment gap and ensure every child in Scotland has an equal chance to succeed – including another £120m Pupil Equity Funding direct to schools this year."

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