Only one out of 2,022 secondary teachers had experienced physical violence in the classroom the week before they responded to researchers. The most common form of serious disruptive behaviour towards staff was “general verbal abuse”.
However, almost 80 per cent of secondary teachers have to deal with “low-level” disruption at least twice a day and mobile phone use in class is on the rise, the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Study found. It drew its findings from 12 case study schools.
Pupil-to-pupil violence, aggression and general verbal abuse were also frequently seen in the classroom and around the school by both primary and secondary staff.
Low-level disruption had more of a day-to-day impact on the learning environment, and “talking out of turn” was the most common, which was experienced at least twice a day by around 70 per cent of staff in both primary and secondary schools.
“The use of mobile phones has increased markedly in secondary schools since 2009,” the report said.
Dr Alasdair Allan, minister for learning, said: “This research shows that teachers find the overwhelming majority of Scottish pupils are well behaved. When these findings are considered alongside the 40 per cent drop in the number of exclusions since 2006, we see that behaviour is continuously improving in our schools.”
But teachers were concerned about a “perceived increase in the incidence of severe mental health issues, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autistic spectrum disorders”. Staff found the behaviour of these pupils “particularly challenging”, the report said.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary at the Educational Institute of Scotland, said unacceptable behaviour by a small number of pupils continues to blight the working lives of teachers, and damage the educational experience for the vast majority of pupils who were well-behaved and eager to learn.
“Verbal abuse of teachers, together with other types of unacceptable behaviour such as misuse of mobile phones or a refusal to follow instructions, are persistent problems that take up far too much of a teacher’s time.”
However, he added: “Thankfully, serious disruption and violence continue to be a much less common problem than persistent low-level disruption, such as texting in class.”
Eight out of 257 secondary headteachers reported attacks in the past 12 months, up from three out of 246 in 2009.