The proportion of Scots teachers reporting incidents of physical violence in the classroom each week has quadrupled in the space of seven years in what has been described as an "escalating crisis", it can be revealed.

It comes as Scots ministers are being accused of failing to act with the urgency required to get a grip of problems of violence and abuse from pupils in schools by one union.

Analysis for the Scottish Government by the Scottish Centre for Social Research has revealed a "general worsening of pupil behaviour" since 2016 with primary and secondary staff experiencing rises in seriously disruptive behaviour in and around schools.

An online and paper survey coupled with fieldwork found that while just 3% of teachers reported incidents of physical violence involving them in the classroom at least once per week in 2016, in 2023 that has risen to 12%. For headteachers the proportion had doubled from 15% to 30%.

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The study involving 3754 people from 508 primary schools and 330 secondary schools coupled with fieldwork conducted in 2023 found that the proportion experiencing violence around the school had, meanwhile doubled for teachers from 5% to 10% while for headteachers it rose from 16% to 30%.

For teachers, the proportion facing verbal abuse in the classroom had more than trebled from 8% to 28% while for headteachers it went up from 31% to 46% over the seven years.

Among the  10% of primary teachers who reported experiencing violent behaviour towards them in 2023  a rise from  4% in 2016, the proportion involving the use of weapons has doubled. 

Aberdeen has been central to calls for a crackdown on weapons in schools since 2015 when Bailey Gwynne, 16, was stabbed to death by his classmate Daniel Stroud at the city’s Cults Academy.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Stroud told police in an interview played to the jury during his trial that he “never fitted in” and brought weapons to school because he “was just trying to be cool”. He was jailed for nine years in 2016.

A briefing sent by the NASUWT to ministers in August warned that the overwhelming majority (93%) of teachers say verbal and physical abuse from pupils had increased in the last 12 months.

Some 94% reported receiving verbal abuse, including being sworn at, threatened with serious violence, including threats of being shot, and targeted with racial or sexual insults. And 95% said that the number of pupils verbally abusing staff members has increased in the last 12 months.

In the snapshot survey of some 358 teachers, nearly four in five teachers (79%) said that the ineffective use of restorative behaviour programmes in their schools is the biggest contributor to a decline in pupil behaviour. And 76% also cited a lack of proper policies and procedures in their schools to deter unacceptable behaviour.

Restorative approaches to pupil behaviour management have been increasingly adopted by schools in recent years and focus on the use of structured conversations between staff and pupils to address incidents of poor behaviour, including physical and verbal abuse of staff and fellow students.

Some 73% of members who said that their school uses restorative conversations between pupils and staff as a method for managing behaviour said they felt it was ineffective in dealing with behaviour incidents.

When asked what would most help them in managing pupil behaviour, 84% said pupils with behavioural issues being moved into specialist provision that better meets their needs. Some 70% cited more engagement from parents and carers, while more than six in ten cited more in-class and external support in the form of teaching assistants and access to child psychologists and mental health professionals.

The NASUWT union said it has been many months since a series of national behaviour summits was organised by the education secretary Jenny Gilruth yet all that has publicly emerged since is a "small number of completely inadequate proposals last November which completely fail to grasp the scale of the problem".

Today NASUWT members at its national conference are due to condemn the failure of ministers to publish and implement nationally recognised clear behaviour guidelines for all schools.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Jenny Gilruth

They will call for a system of national agreed strategies to be put in place for dangerous and disruptive behaviour, which include a consistent set of consequences for pupils.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “In the absence of the robust provisions needed from Government, we will continue to take all steps in schools to ensure our members are protected from violence and abuse.

“But teachers should also be able to rely on their elected government to back them in safely undertaking the vital work they do every day with our children and young people.

“Despite the Cabinet Secretary professing to be deeply concerned about pupil behaviour in schools, all that she has done is announce a set of half-baked proposals that do not go anywhere near far enough to deal with the realities that teachers are experiencing day-in day-out in their classrooms.”

At the end of April, police were called when a 10-year-old schoolboy 'presented a knife' at another pupil inside a Dumbarton primary school.

Police were called to the incident on April 25 and issued advice to children about "the dangers" of carrying a knife.

And a 14-year-old was arrested in January following reports of a teenager having a knife at Peterhead Academy.

It comes as it emerged that Police Scotland do not routinely track how many pupils aged under 18 have been found in possession of offensive weapons such as knives, pellet guns and hammers on school premises.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Police Scotland

In a response, Police Scotland said: "To explain, crimes in Scotland are recorded in accordance with the Scottish Government Justice Department offence classification codes and whilst there are relevant crime classifications related to bladed/ offensive weapons in a school, the crime recording systems used by Police Scotland have no facility whereby the requested details can be easily extracted."

Attempts to find out the levels from the public in October were rebuffed because it was considered "too costly to do".

But a study of Scottish councils undertaken last year found that the number of knives confiscated from children had nearly quadrupled in four years. In 2018/19 there were 14 confiscated and in 2022/23 it had risen to 49. Seized weapons included butterfly knives, a machete, a knuckle duster and a four-foot plank of wood.

Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland national official, said: "Teachers are not being hyperbolic when they say they fear for their safety and feel the Scottish Government is currently not doing all it could to protect them.

“The Cabinet Secretary cannot claim to be in any doubt about what is needed to help address this problem. She needs to show real leadership by putting in place national guidelines that make it clear to schools what is expected of them and which uphold teachers’ right to work in safety.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The NASUWT are part of the national group tasked with producing a behaviour action plan - which shows clear partnership working between Scottish Government and the teaching professional associations. As members of this group, the NASUWT helped to write the action plan, which will publish in the coming weeks. 

"Changes in behaviour in Scotland's schools since the pandemic are well understood - this is why the Cabinet Secretary committed to holding a series of summits focused on behaviour, convened the headteacher's taskforce and published the behaviour in Scotland's Schools research last November - culminating in the commitment to this action plan. Actions will set our responsibilities for Government nationally and for Local Authorities who have the statutory responsibility for the delivery of education in Scotland.  

"The cabinet secretary regularly meets with Mr Corbett on a range of issues including workload and reducing class contact most recently. Ms Gilruth extends her warm welcome to Dr Roach to meet on any of these issues."