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Influencers blamed as Scotland's schools see stark increase in misogynist behaviour

Andrew Tate
Andrew Tate

Influencers like Andrew Tate have been blamed for an increase in sexist, misogynistic and explicitly sexualised language among male pupils in Scotland's schools.

A survey of teachers across the country found "great concern about this growing trend and its impact on girls, young women and female school staff members."

They also blamed the rise of social media influencers like Mr Tate for a spike in abusive and sexist language and disruptive behaviour towards female teachers.

“It's really frightening how much he has reached out and infiltrated their world and he's all over social media and it's like a radicalisation of a lot of the young men in the school.”

Mr Tate has amassed a following of millions in recent years. He is currently in Romania, facing charges of human trafficking, rape and forming an organised crime group to exploit women. He has denied all the allegations.

One secondary teacher told the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research (BISSR) that influencers were having "an overt impact on how [pupils] display misogyny. I would say that's definitely one of the biggest issues and it's one that's on the rise.”

READ MORE: EIS school violence data must be a wake-up call for Scotland

The survey of 3,754 teachers, headteachers and local authority staff across 525 schools, published on Tuesday, makes for grim reading, with staff saying “a perceived lack of consequences" is partly to blame for “a general deterioration in the behaviour of pupils.”

The EIS teachers’ union called the findings of the questionnaire — the sixth carried out since 2006 — “deeply worrying.” They said it echoed the conclusions of their own report, published last week.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth is due to address MSPs on Wednesday, to set out the Scottish Government’s plans to “tackle instances of poor behaviour at the root as soon as possible.”

Teachers and staff also blamed “a lack of investment in education and support for young people, coupled with societal issues such as poverty, the influence of social media, mental ill-health and the continuing aftermath of the pandemic."

They said this had created an "environment where too many young people feel alienated, isolated and distressed.”

The Herald:
The Herald:

The report states that for a growing minority of young people, this is “increasingly manifesting itself in unruly, disruptive or violent behaviour, including during the school day and aimed at staff or other pupils.”

In 2016, when the survey was last carried out less than 1% of primary and secondary teachers had encountered the use of a weapon towards other pupils in the classroom, but in the most recent survey that had jumped to 6%.

When the BISSR report first asked in 2006, just 10% of primary teachers had dealt with physical aggression towards other pupils at least once a day. That has now doubled to 20%.

The report also noted criticism over a lack of support for pupils with additional support needs, particularly Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD.

READ MORE: Scottish teachers speak out on violence in schools

Many teachers believe Covid has played a part in the behaviour change, though some argued that there was a trend towards more negative behaviour among pupils pre-pandemic.

However, most school staff perceived that pupil behaviour was worse in 2023 than before the lockdown.

Perceptions have declined since 2016 and since the time series began in 2006.

That said, the majority of staff in 2023 still perceived that “all or most pupils are generally well-behaved around the school and in the classroom.”

The most common low-level disruptive behaviour was pupils talking out of turn, with 86% of staff having encountered this at least once a day.

The most common forms of serious disruptive behaviours between pupils were physical and verbal abuse, particularly physical aggression, general verbal abuse and physical violence.

Two-thirds of teachers, (67%), told the survey that they had encountered general verbal abuse, while 59% said they had been the subject of physical aggression and another 43%has experienced physical violence between pupils.

Social media was also highlighted as a negative influence, with staff describing instances of pupils videoing fights and taking pictures of staff members during classes and pupils under toilet cubicle doors, before sharing them on social media.

“So, setting up fights, enticing fights, sharing videos of fights, making false accounts, sending pictures of staff, pictures of other pupils, putting them to abusive songs and insulting social media platforms. That side has all increased,” one local authority representative said.

The report also quoted a number of local authority education representatives who expressed concerns about the Scottish Government’s flagship free bus travel scheme for the under 22s.

They said it “led to young people travelling to other areas of the city to take part in fights or meeting up on buses and engaging in anti-social behaviour.”

The representatives also raised “safeguarding concerns that young people may be travelling far from their homes to meet with people without their parents’ knowledge.”

One told the survey: “I don’t know if other local authorities have verbalised their concerns about the free bus travel but certainly what we’re seeing in [local authority] is that some of our adolescents are planning groupings, congregations, gangs, using the free bus pass and heading…one gang heading from one community to another and yeah…the implications of that. So I think socially we’re seeing real issues in our communities and that is drip feeding into our schools as well.”

On the impact of Covid, teachers said the pandemic had led to pupils switching off in the classroom.

Among senior secondary school pupils, previous cohorts had been “more self-motivated”, particularly with respect to exam preparation.

“I just feel like they're just a little bit lackadaisical. It's almost like there's a bit of a hangover from Covid, where they just don't have that same drive that other year groups have had coming through,” one secondary teacher said.

The Herald:
The Herald:

EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said the BISSR confirmed findings of the EIS’s own national survey of school branches, published last week.

She said: “The Scottish Government and Scotland’s local authorities simply cannot ignore the evidence of the BISSR and the EIS national survey, both of which paint a deeply worrying picture of a rising tide of disruptive behaviour, aggression and violence in Scotland’s schools.

“A lack of investment in education and support for young people, coupled with societal issues such as poverty, the influence of social media, mental ill-health and the continuing aftermath of the pandemic, have created an environment where too many young people feel alienated, isolated and distressed.

“For a growing minority of young people, this is increasingly manifesting itself in unruly, disruptive or violent behaviour, including during the school day and aimed at staff or other pupils.”

Tory education spokesman, Liam Kerr said the report was “eye-opening.”

“Every single day pupils and staff are at risk of violence or some form of abuse as a result of SNP ministers’ failure to get a grip on these issues.

“The survey makes it clear that these problems have increased substantially in recent years. It is deeply alarming to see the use of drugs and alcohol increase among pupils, as well as the levels of physical and sexist abuse rising.

“The SNP have taken their eye off the ball on school violence. The education secretary’s statement cannot simply be full of warm words.

“It must outline robust measures to protect pupils and staff and ensure our schools have the resources they need to take a zero-tolerance attitude towards those who think this sort of behaviour is acceptable.”

Ms Gilruth said: “We commissioned this research to provide us with the clearest possible picture on behaviour and relationships in schools.

It builds upon my own extensive engagement with teachers, school leaders, support staff and local authority colleagues to fully understand how our pupils are interacting with each other and their teachers.

“It is clear from the responses that most teachers report good behaviour amongst pupils – this provides some important nuance to this issue and must be at the forefront of our plans to tackle the instances of disruptive behaviours.

“Young people must not be demonised, and poor behaviour cannot be generalised. Our young people have faced a huge amount of disruption in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has been compounded by the current cost of living crisis – this is not unique to Scotland.

“Tomorrow I will set out to Parliament our plans to engage with local authorities and schools to ensure a plan of action is taken forward to tackle instances of poor behaviour at the root as soon as possible.

“I plan to engage directly with young people on this matter to ensure their voices are front and centre – as well as with teachers and school staff, to ensure they are fully supported in responding to these challenges.”