The Blog

Growing Disquiet Among Scottish Teachers About Pupil Discipline

Maintaining high standards of education and closing the attainment gap are key concerns for schools, parents, the public and politicians.

Maintaining high standards of education and closing the attainment gap are key concerns for schools, parents, the public and politicians.

Often overlooked in the standards debate, however, is the importance to pupils' learning of engendering good pupil behaviour and supporting teachers in doing so. It is, therefore, deeply concerning to note the growing disquiet among teachers about pupil indiscipline.

It is a simple, self-evident truth that teachers cannot teach and pupils cannot learn in an environment where there is disruption and violence.

Thanks to the hard work of teachers, support staff and school leaders across Scotland the vast majority of schools remain relative havens of peace, security and good order.

However, in research conducted by the NASUWT, 85 per cent of teachers in Scotland said they believe that there are widespread behaviour problems developing in schools across Scotland and 50 per cent say there are problems in their own school.

Twenty-one per cent of teachers reported having been, in the last year, victims of a physical assault at work, over a quarter report having being threatened with physical assault, and over three-quarters have suffered verbal abuse during the same period.

Ninety-two per cent of teachers said their school does not always get access to external support to support pupil behaviour when needed.

A contributory factor to the growing concern about pupil behaviour appears to be the way in which the policy of the "presumption of mainstream", which promotes the inclusion of all children in a mainstream school setting, is being implemented.

Teachers' increasingly are expressing disquiet about the expectations this policy is placing on them, particularly with regard to pupils with severe behavioural problems.

The NASUWT strongly believes that all pupils are entitled to inclusion in the education service and to have their educational needs met. If the policy of "presumption of mainstream" is to be successful, then all children and young people must have their needs assessed fully and access to the support and resources they need must be provided in mainstream schools to meet their needs.

However, teachers report that children and young people with severe behavioural problems are being placed in settings inappropriate for their needs, without the appropriate resource, including access to specialist additional staffing when required.

Too many teachers now feel that when they raise concerns about the inadequacy of the provision or ­request action and support about the verbal and physical abuse they are facing, their professionalism, competence and commitment is questioned.

Neither pupils nor teachers benefit from such a response. The pupil who clearly has particular needs is not being helped, the rest of the pupils in the class have their education disrupted and the teacher faces increased pressure and stress.

The Scottish Government's "Getting It Right for Every Child" strategy rightly emphasises the importance of ensuring that the needs of every individual child are met.

This is a worthy aspiration but the reality is that it cannot be achieved unless there is a commitment to fully resourcing the strategy. Teachers and schools will always strive to do their best for every child they teach, but no one should go to work with the expectation that being abused and assaulted is part of the job.

Schools should be able readily to access external advice, support and specialist provision and they must be given adequate resources to develop appropriate educational programmes, including early intervention strategies, to meet the needs of individual pupils. Government and employers have a responsibility for the educational provision for all children and young people, but all too often they seem to forget that they also have a duty of care for the teachers and other staff who are delivering the high-quality service.

Inclusion is expensive. The "presumption of mainstream" cannot be delivered on the basis of compromising the health, welfare and safety of staff and by expecting schools and teachers to pick up the pieces and plug the resource gap.