Christmas Quiz 2023

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Bleak picture on school behaviour

As we highlight in this month’s SEJ, two recent major publications have painted a worrying picture on the scale of the aggression and violence challenge facing Scotland’s schools.

The EIS national branch survey, carried out earlier this year, confirmed that many schools are seeing violent incidents every week. Whether that violence is aimed at teachers, support staff or pupils, it is completely unacceptable and every possible step must be taken to eradicate it from our schools.

Just after the EIS survey report was published, the Scottish Government released the findings of the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research (BiSSR), which confirmed a substantial spike in violence and the threat of violence since the last time the research was undertaken.

The defence from the Scottish Government is that the majority of pupils are well behaved, and that it is a minority of pupils who are responsible for the vast majority of incidents. But, while this is true, that minority of pupils is a growing minority and the number of incidents they are involved in has swollen to a level never seen before in Scotland’s schools.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to the victims of violence – be they staff or pupils – whether the perpetrator is part of a small minority or not. The attack still hurts just the same, and it still places a substantial and unacceptable toll on the victim.

Cabinet Secretary Jenny Gilruth says that she is ‘listening’ to the profession. But her Parliamentary statement in the aftermath of the EIS Survey and the BiSSR was, to put it mildly, disappointing. The lack of detail in the proposals, and the stark scarcity of additional resources to tackle the issue, was characterised by political opponents as ‘not so much a plan, but a plan to produce a plan’. Given the scale of the problem, and its impact on pupils, teachers and support staff and on learning and teaching in our schools, far more is needed from the Cabinet Secretary and the Scottish Government.

You can read more about the issue in this month’s SEJ. In the Council News section, we focus on Council’s response to the alarming violence figures in the context of the ongoing Stand Up for Quality Education campaign. In our main feature, we take a closer look at the findings of the EIS national branch survey report – which includes a clear routemap to tackle the issues at school, local authority and national level.

Pay remains on the agenda

As this SEJ goes to print, the EIS Salaries Committee was set to meet to agree the Pay Claim for 2024/2025, to be submitted through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.

Although the final element of the last pay deal (2% from January 1) has yet to be paid to teachers, the next pay settlement is due to be applied from August 1 2024. The pay claim for that settlement will be submitted by the Teachers’ Side of the SNCT at a meeting in January.

While inflation has fallen from the incredibly high levels it reached over the past year following the disastrous economic policies of the UK government, prices still continue to rise at a far higher level than has been the case over many years. Halving inflation – as was the UK government’s stated aim – is not particularly impressive, when that government’s own policies had seen inflation more than quadruple over the previous year.

The pay claim that the Salaries Committee will submit through the SNCT process will be thoroughly evidence-based, and will reflect current realities over the cost of living, high teacher workload, the working environment that teachers face, and the importance of education not just to young people but to the whole of society.

Season’s greetings

Despite the many challenges that we all continue to face, the SEJ wishes all of its readers all the very best for the Festive Season, and a very Happy New Year when it comes.

We hope that you take time over the break to relax, recharge and spend quality time with family and friends – possibly while enjoying the traditional SEJ end of year prize quiz!

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December 2023

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