A summit on tackling school violence has been welcomed, but the Scottish Conservatives have warned Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth she must act “without delay”.
The Scottish Government has announced a summit will bring together pupils, parents, schools and local authorities to discuss how to crack down on violent incidents “in the coming weeks”.
It comes after figures last week revealed almost 14,000 incidents of school violence had been reported in the last year.
During a Holyrood debate led by the Tories, Ms Gilruth said the issue will be one of her “top priorities” in Government.
Tory education spokesman Stephen Kerr urged her to ensure the summit “meets within days” and “without delay”.
He said: “This is what is now needed and will be supported by teachers, pupils and parents across Scotland if, and only if, it leads to action.
“The summit should meet without delay and it should be inclusive.”
He also called for an action plan to be published for pupils and teachers before the new school year starts in August.
“I cautiously celebrate the minister’s announcement this week of a summit but we have demands to make of this Cabinet Secretary,” Mr Kerr added.
He said a funding package “for meaningful intervention” must be announced to help victims and perpetrators of violence.
He added: “They need to believe that at the summit on school violence, we will do something more than talk about getting them the help and support they need.”
In announcing the summit, Ms Gilruth said: “I’ve been in this post for two months and during that time I have made it absolutely clear that behaviour – and that’s broader than school violence – relationships and wellbeing in our schools are among my top priorities.
“At the heart of this debate today is a generation of young people who’ve grown up with two years of disruption to their formal education.
“Punitive responses to that trauma won’t work. We need systems to come together for the benefit of our children.
“That will be how we get it right for every child, and I’m committed to engaging with every party to that end.”
Pam Duncan-Glancy, Scottish Labour’s education spokeswoman, said the “deepening, worrying culture in schools is a sorry symptom of the failure at the hands of a Government that hasn’t delivered on some of its promises”.
She added: “In failing, it hasn’t only let down staff and pupils, but it has put the future and the next generation of our country in jeopardy too.”
The summit has been welcomed by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the largest teaching union in the country.
EIS general secretary Angela Bradley said “tangible results” must follow.
“This summit is an important first step, with which Scotland’s teachers will be keen to engage,” she said.
“It must not be just a talking shop, set up to give the appearance of taking action.
“This summit must produce tangible results to ensure the safety of all in our schools and improve the learning and teaching environment for students and staff alike.
“The EIS is now awaiting further detail from the Scottish Government on how this event will proceed.”
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