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OECD school violence data should be wake-up call for Scottish ministers – Tories

A report has warned about levels of violence in schools (David Jones/PA)
A report has warned about levels of violence in schools (David Jones/PA)

Figures showing Scottish pupils are twice as likely to witness violence at school as children in other nations must be a “wake-up call” for ministers, the Scottish Tories warned.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings for 2022 which showed Scotland’s performance in maths, reading and science has declined since 2018.

The report, which assesses 3,300 pupils aged 15 and compares performance with 81 other countries, also revealed school discipline concerns.

It showed that Scottish pupils were twice as likely to witness a fight at school than the OECD average, with 35.8% reporting seeing someone get hurt on school grounds, compared to the 17% average.

It also said 40% of pupils had seen their schools vandalised compared to the 19.8% OECD average.

And 35.7% of pupils surveyed said they have heard a student threaten another student while the OECD average is just 20.2%.

Violence in schools has become an increasing concern across Scotland, with Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth holding summits on the issue in an effort to combat the problem.

Around £900,000 was announced in recent weeks to help councils train school staff to deal with the growing challenge.

The Scottish Tories are set to raise the issue in Holyrood on Wednesday, arguing that pupils are facing a “double whammy” of declining attainment figures and rising violence.

Scottish Conservatives education spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The Pisa report highlights the double whammy facing Scottish youngsters under the SNP – plummeting academic standards and an epidemic of violence and antisocial behaviour in schools.

Humza Yousaf visit
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth held summits on school violence (Jane Barlow/PA)

“These figures are deeply alarming and should be a wake-up call for the SNP, who have presided over the shameful failing of our education system, a growing attainment gap they pledged to close, and now the surge in school violence.

“Teachers and students should not be living in fear when stepping into supposedly safe places for learning.

“After 16 years of continued SNP failure in education, it’s time ministers got a grip of escalating violence and vandalism, as well as the falling standards in key Stem subjects.

“They must heed the concerns of teaching unions, review guidance and exclusion policies and work with all parties to ensure that staff and students are not exposed to violence in schools.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Cabinet Secretary has welcomed views from a range of stakeholders on issues associated with changing behaviour in Scotland’s schools.

“It’s clear that post-pandemic behavioural changes in classrooms are affecting schools across the UK.

“Changes to attendance, behaviour and last week’s Pisa results necessitate a different approach, we cannot accept this ‘new normal’ to determine educational outcomes for the next generation.

“The Cabinet Secretary has already committed to a joint national action plan, to set out a range of actions at national, local and school level, to support improved behaviour.

“Ms Gilruth held productive talks last week with trade unions and will continue to engage with them, Cosla, parents and carers to ensure we improve behaviour.

“Scotland’s performance in the Pisa assessments was above the OECD average in reading and similar to the OECD average in maths and science. This was also the case in the previous survey, in 2018.”