John Swinney urged to tackle 'litany of broken promises' over youth violence epidemic

John Swinney has been urged to tackle a "litany of broken promises" amid a youth violence epidemic in Scotland.

Teachers' union NASUWT has called on the new First Minister to combat the “culture of procrastination and obfuscation” within the Scottish Government in dealing with school violence. The union argues ministers are currently "failing" to address the issue, which was the focal point of an emergency summit last year.

The event was organised by Cabinet Secretary, Jenny Gilruth after the Record highlighted a series of concerning attacks on teens in schools across the country as part of its Our Kids ... Our Future campaign.

But months after it took place, the union argues all that has emerged since is a small number of "completely inadequate" proposals which "fail to grasp the scale of the problem".

Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland National Official, said: “The new First Minister must make a break with the culture of delay and denial which has grown up in their government and which is undermining teachers’ ability to do their job, leaving them vulnerable in their own classrooms and preventing all pupils reaching their full potential.

“Teachers have waited long enough for action on the matters which are hampering their working lives and the education of children and young people. The new First Minister needs to act decisively to fulfil the promises made to teachers and parents."

Minister for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth
Minister for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth -Credit:PA

It comes as the union's Scotland annual conference takes place today. NASUWT members at the conference, which is being held virtually, will call for a system of national 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: “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.”

Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland National Official
Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland National Official -Credit:Daily Record

Mr Corbett added: “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.”

In March, a teacher who was sexually assaulted in her classroom in Glasgow told the Record how she felt that the summit had been "nothing more than a talking shop". The secondary school teacher - who was punched, kicked and grabbed between her legs in a series of shocking incidents - hit out over a lack of action since the summit took place last year.

Her calls were echoed by NASUWT later that month as the union called on the Scottish Government to give "unambiguous backing" to schools that wanted to take measures such as expulsions for abusive behaviour. Instead, the government pledged to deliver more training for staff, in a move the union blasted as 'laying blame' on teachers who are at the frontline of managing an epidemic of sickening physical attacks.

A Scottish Government spokesperson 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.

“Work is well underway to bring forward a National Action Plan, working with NASUWT and other key partners to set out the range of actions needed at both local and national level, which will publish in the coming weeks. New guidance on mobile phones in schools will also be published shortly.

"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."

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