West Lothian schools report drop in pupil violence

The number of pupils being violent towards each other in West Lothian schools has fallen in the last year -Credit:SCU
The number of pupils being violent towards each other in West Lothian schools has fallen in the last year -Credit:SCU

The number of pupils being violent towards each other in West Lothian schools has fallen in the last year.

Most of the reported incidents took place in primary schools.

Specialist training for teachers has helped reduce the numbers of in school fights but senior pupils are also involved in calming down potentially violent incidents.

The council’s Audit Committee heard that officers had carried out a review of the risks from pupil-on-pupil violence in West Lothian schools and judged the “controls in place to be effective,” given the numbers.

“There is a comprehensive list of controls in place”, said Kenneth Ribbons, the council’s Audit, Risk and Counter Fraud Manager.

Figures revealed at the meeting show that there were 211 recorded incidents in the 2022 to 2023 year and 153 in the current year ( to March 26) across 68 primary schools, 13 high schools, six additional support need (ASN) schools and 66 early learning and childcare establishments.

There are more than 27,000 school-age children and more than 4,000 pre-school children in the county.

The policy defines pupil-on-pupil violence as: “ a deliberate or malicious act of violence by a pupil on another pupil with intent to cause harm and which results in some form of harm, including serious injury or death.”

A breakdown showed more than half the recorded incidents took place in primary schools, with 108 recorded in 2022 to 2023 and 90 in 2023 to 2024. In high schools the number fell from 83 to 50 and in ASN schools from 20 to 13.

The committee heard that a policy, promoting positive relationships, is in place incorporating an anti-bullying framework, whole school and targeted strategies to encourage positive relationships and behaviour.

It includes sections on the management of violence and aggression and the management of incidents which involve weapons.

Teachers are given annual training on de-escalation techniques and positive approaches to behaviour.

Staff across all secondary schools have received training under the Mentors in Violence Programme (MVP).

MVP also provides senior pupils with the opportunity to receive training on identification and challenge of gender-based violence in a safe way and deliver MVP lessons and support to peers and younger pupils.

A recent report on MVP published on the Education Scotland National Improvement Hub confirmed that MVP impacts go beyond the scope of gender-based violence with MVP lessons resulting in “increased pupil communication when reporting fights brewing, other pupils carrying sharp objects in school, self-harming pupils, as well as pupils feeling able to intervene when they are witness to violent or bullying behaviour.”

Councillor Lynda Kenna said “It’s heartening to see the drop in figures of incidents.”

Chairing the meeting Councillor Angela Doran-Timson said: “The figures are still quite high for primary at 90. It is going in the right direction but how do we reduce it further?”

Greg Welsh, the head of primary and early years education, said that putting the figures into context with more than 15,000 pupils in primary schools it worked out at 1.6 incidents per school per year.

He added: “We do tend to find that a number of incidents are concentrated potentially in the one school due to a specific set of needs either around an individual or a cohort and our support teams work the school and try to de-escalate and support them. So it is something they do monitor on a regular basis.”

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