MSP talks of pupils "rampaging through school" wielding metal bars as weapons in debate

In a debate in parliament on Wednesday, May 24, local MSP Rachael Hamilton claimed SNP Government reforms on education are leaving teachers “in tears” over problem pupils “rampaging through school” wielding weapons.
Rachael Hamilton, MSP  for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.Rachael Hamilton, MSP  for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.
Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.

In the debate, “Ending Violence in Schools”, she spoke of the problems being encountered in one local school, after one of her constituents, a teacher, told “horror stories” of their plight.

She claimed that “standards have slipped” over the past 16 years, with literacy, reading, writing, listening, talking and numeracy in decline in primary schools.

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She said: “Teachers are under more strain and pressure than ever before because of the system that the SNP Government has created. They are suffering from more abuse and violence than ever before because of SNP Government reforms.”

The MSP then talked of one whistleblower teacher who had come to her with her worries over a small number of children who have been handed a “free run to ruin the learning environment”.

She said: “I recently heard from a constituent who is a teacher about a steep rise in violence in her school—the ‘horror story’, as she put it, of a small group of kids rampaging through the school on a near-daily basis, throwing chairs, pouring glue over carpets and wielding weapons including metal bars.

"She described children who are unsafe, adults being in tears over violence and emotional stress, and some people having been sent to hospital. She said that her school has done all that it can, but the problem does not stop.

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“That would be bad enough if teachers had a way of speaking out about those issues. However, they feel that they do not. Teachers say that they have no real recourse when violence strikes; that they fear repercussions on their career; and that they feel powerless to prevent abuse.

“As it stands, only in teaching does it seem to be considered to be okay for staff to be battered and abused without repercussions. The culture of silence that has developed about violence in schools must end. It is failing everyone—not only the teachers, but the majority of well-behaved pupils and concerned parents, too.

“The Government must answer for its reforms, the impact of its changes on the relationship between teachers and pupils, and the promises that it has broken.”

After the debate, Mrs Hamilton said: “I was pleased to be able to speak in the debate on violence in schools. Having heard no end of horror stories from teachers in the Borders who face abhorrent abuse every day, it was important to take the opportunity to speak out on this issue.

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“Our teachers are invaluable, and there is no doubt that the excellent work they do is shaping the future of this country.

“Yet, they are not being supported to tackle the challenges they face in terms of violence and abuse from pupils.

“I am clear that we need to look at ways of helping teachers tackle this issue, and I welcome the Scottish Government’s summit on violence in schools that has been called in to action by the Scottish Conservatives.

“Teachers cannot be expected to deal with rising levels of violence and abuse without being equipped with the tools to deal with it.”

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Jenny Gilruth, cabinet secretary for education and skills of Scotland, said: “I very much recognise the challenge, and it is really important that we get this right. A number of members talked about the pressures that schools are working under. There are Covid impacts and on-going cost of living impacts.”

She added: “I know that we have focused on violence today, but I remind members that that is not the only issue. For example, there can sometimes be verbal abuse in the classroom. There are different ways in which challenging behaviour can manifest. In my experience, it was never violence.

"It is important that we get the Government response right; the summit will seek to bring together partners to do just that and to work with our teachers, who are at the chalkface and will be essential to delivering the solutions that we need in responding to behaviour issues in our schools.”

Scottish Borders Council has been approached for comment.