TEACHERS in North Ayrshire have been promised more support to tackle a ‘huge increase’ in violence in local classrooms.

Councillors were told incidents of violence and aggression in North Ayrshire’s schools have rocketed by more than 100 per cent in four years – with mobile phone use cited as a contributing factor.

Tom Marshall, leader of the Conservative opposition group at North Ayrshire Council (NAC), said incidents recorded by the authority’s communities and education directorate for ‘quarter three’ – running from October to December – had shot up from 270 in 2020 to 563 in 2023.

And while pandemic restrictions which limited classroom learning may have partly influenced those figures, the year-on-year rise from 2022 to 2023, when there were no Covid restrictions in place, is still 43 per cent.

Speaking at a full NAC meeting on March 27, Cllr Marshall asked for an explanation of the increase – and for more detail on what was being done to protect school staff.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Cllr Tom Marshall Cllr Tom Marshall (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

Councillor Shaun Macaulay, the council’s cabinet member for education, said: “The vast majority of our learners behave well.

“It is recognised nationally that there are increases in incidents of violence and aggression within educational settings: this is mostly pupil to pupil. 

"The recent findings from BISSR (Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research 2023) demonstrated that pupil-to-teacher violence and aggression is experienced more frequently by those working with early years and primaries 1-3.

"Since the last research which was conducted in 2016, teaching and support staff also noted increases in issues around the use of mobile telephones.

"The message to our employees is that violence and aggression from adults is not tolerated. In recognising the development of children and young people’s brains, we are clear that we do not accept that employees and other young people should consider violence and aggression as a natural element of their working environment.

"As a result, we are working hard to reduce these incidents."

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Cllr Shaun MacaulayCllr Shaun Macaulay (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

Cllr Macaulay explained that a new system for reporting such incidents has been in place since October 2023, and said that ease of access to that system had contributed to the rise in recorded incidents.

He also said that a number of incidents recorded on the new system detailed multiple entries for the same pupil.

Cllr Macaulay continued: "We analyse these incidents on a regular basis and ensure that action is taken to support those impacted, and that those displaying such behaviours are supported appropriately.

"Senior managers liaise with their head teachers and centre heads to scrutinise incidents and how these are managed.

"Alongside our trade union colleagues, we are in the final stages of reviewing the corporate police on violence and aggression to focus specifically on how incidents of this nature can be prevented.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Incidents of violence and aggression in North Ayrshire's classrooms have more than doubled since 2020.Incidents of violence and aggression in North Ayrshire's classrooms have more than doubled since 2020. (Image: Newsquest)

“The document provides clear instruction on how such matters should be dealt with in terms of both support for staff and young people impacted.

"We are currently developing additional professional learning for our senior leaders in managing this type of behaviour, building on much of the strong work on targeted and whole school nurture, promoting positive relationships and building on positive relationships.

"This will also be available to classroom assistants and pupil support assistants."

Cllr Marshall responded: "It is good to see that we are being pro-active in trying to resolve this matter, and although the vast majority behave well, it only takes less than a handful in a class of 30 to cause an issue."