A TEACHER concerned by the “tsunami” of bad behaviour in schools has written an open letter to Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth, saying that “teaching staff are too often not given a voice.”

It comes after Gilruth announced the creation of a new summit in May focused on tackling violence in schools, with figures revealing almost 14,000 incidents of school violence had been reported in the last year.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) also said that this “aggression epidemic” led to “many teachers feeling unsafe at work and unsupported by employers” after it surveyed nearly 2,500 members.

John Young – not his real name – has been a teacher for 20 years, the last five of which have been spent in a secondary school classroom.

READ MORE: School violence: Ministers are not listening to teachers, EIS warns

He told The National that there is “an absolute tidal wave of relentless behaviour issues” in Scottish schools, including rampant racism, sexism and violence.

Young has experienced it first-hand. He said: “It has got completely out of control and it has to be addressed.

“One example. A pupil shouted at another pupil from an Asian background without any provocation: ‘Shut up you Taliban b*tch, I hope the KKK come and kill you’.

He added: “That example is at the more extreme end of the scale but it’s becoming more common.

“Racism, homophobia, misogynistic comments where female staff members are being told by pupils that they're going to get found after school and they're going to get raped, or that they know where they live and they’re going to find their daughter and rape them.”

“And there were almost no consequences."

Young argued in his letter that there is an over-reliance on trauma-informed teaching, which considers how trauma impacts learning and behaviour and encourages restorative discussions.

Young says there is certainly a place for restorative practice. He went on: “But what this is doing is it's taking away consequences for the most serious offences and pupils aren’t learning anything as a result.

“I no longer have anything left in my skill box that can deal with the seriousness of the things that are going on – no matter how good the lessons are, how much work is put in or experience.”

He added in his letter: “Scottish schools are like war zones now. This may come across as hyperbolic, but it is absolutely a fair description of classrooms in 2023.

“It's no longer a small minority who cause havoc. Ask a lot of teachers and they will say it's like crowd control out there.”

Young believes that Covid-19 has played a part but that this bad behaviour started well before the pandemic.

He blames a lack of consequences, particularly for the most serious offences, as well as a “pack mentality” and the over-use of mobile phones in classrooms, which he says are having an impact on concentration levels, cognitive ability and overall wellbeing.

He said: “Any discussion about tackling behaviour in Scottish schools must take this issue seriously and include it as a matter of priority.”

READ MORE: Jenny Gilruth announces new violence in school summit

Young told The National that the mental health of teachers is at a breaking point. He said: "The workload given to teachers has become ever-increasingly ridiculous over the last few years. But add to the workload, the fact that you've got this onslaught of behaviour issues.

"If that is what you're facing every day, from Monday to Friday, it will have a serious effect on your mental health. I have seen massive amounts of teachers taking antidepressants in order to cope.

"I'm still medicated with antidepressants because of my experience as well."

Young used the letter to welcome the behaviour summit but added that Gilruth should take the following into consideration:

1. “Listen to the people who work on the front lines and deal with the behaviour more than anyone else – the teachers

2. "Take the views of so-called experts who have never set foot in a classroom with a great big pinch of salt

3. "Consider different views and opinions – a civil society gives voice to, and listens to alternative points of view

4. "Accept those voices of dissension and disagreement as valid. Listen to what the teachers are trying to tell you

5. "Consider the creation of a protected, independent whistle-blower service designed to support and protect the integrity of those brave souls in education who put their lives on hold to expose malpractice, nepotism, corruption and other blatant abuses of power by their own employers.”

The National:

When asked for comment, a Scottish Government spokesperson said Gilruth will involve “teacher representatives’ at the summit and establish a “headteacher task force in the coming weeks to focus on exclusion”.

The spokesperson said: “The Education Secretary has taken a lead role on this issue since her appointment, recognising that behaviour and relationships in our schools have changed since the pandemic.

“Wider impacts, such as the ongoing cost of living crisis, are also playing a part as has been identified through the National Conversation on Scottish Education.

"The planned behaviour summit will involve a number of partners, including teacher representatives. Additionally, the Cabinet Secretary will establish a headteacher task force in the coming weeks to focus on exclusion.

“In all of this work, the Cabinet Secretary has been very clear that the views of teaching staff will be central.”