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Soaring violence and aggression in classrooms ‘proves the Scottish curriculum must be abandoned’

The Scottish school curriculum should be scrapped and replaced with a “traditional” system, Scottish Tories have said, amid warnings that classroom discipline has almost completely collapsed.

Teachers are now routinely attacked, spat at and verbally abused by children as young as four, union leaders said at a side event at the party conference on Friday.

Mike Corbett, a senior official with the teachers’ union NASUWT, said serious problems had been reported even at top state schools, such as Jordanhill in East Renfrewshire.

He accused the SNP government of turning a blind eye to the problem by refusing to commission research into bad behaviour. He said it was “like they didn’t really want to know” the extent of the problem.

Scottish Tories have now called for a ‘national conversation’ on replacing the country’s Curriculum for Excellence, which was supposed to help develop ‘well-rounded’ and confident children.

“Un-Scottish” approach

Oliver Mundell, the party’s education spokesman, said the ‘non-Scottish’ approach had failed and its introduction more than a decade ago coincided with the country’s fall in international rankings for education.

“The Scottish education system was ranked among the best in the world before the SNP came to power,” Mr Mundell said.

“We should go back to the strong, traditional, teacher-led approach that gave so many of us who went to our local school a good start in life.”

Among the proposals in a new Tory policy document proposing a ‘curriculum for all’ are more powers delegated to headteachers, for example allowing them to raise the salaries of individual teachers for running activities extracurriculars.

The party also wants to link funding to school performance – a move it says would encourage innovation – and introduce an independent school inspectorate made up of former teachers.

Mr Corbett did not approve of scrapping the Excellence Program entirely, but said it had ‘never achieved its original aims’.

He revealed that some schools had tried to dismiss concerns about violent student behavior by claiming it was a form of “communication”.

“What worries me is that many of our members are telling us that since the children have returned there is more evidence of this quite serious, disruptive and often violent behavior,” he said.

“There’s a lot of name-calling against teachers and in some schools it’s just become accepted. In terms of violence, it can be kicking and punching. In primary schools, it’s biting and spitting at teachers, support staff and sometimes other students.

He claimed budget cuts imposed by the SNP had contributed to the problem, along with a lack of support staff or specialist units to deal with disruptive pupils.

“Regular kicks and punches”

Caroline Shiers, a Conservative councilor who is responsible for lifelong learning at Perth and Kinross Council, said there was a ‘ticking time bomb’ of school leaders leaving the profession early, in partly because of student behavior.

“One of the biggest concerns we hear is about the reported levels of violence and aggression since schools resumed full time,” she said.

“Particularly in primary school, teachers say they are regularly kicked and punched because many children have forgotten classroom standards.”

The Scottish Greens, the SNP’s coalition partners, claimed the Tory’s proposed reforms were “little better than an act of homage to Victorian-era education policies”.

A Scottish government spokesman said an independent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development called the Excellence Scheme “bold” and “widely supported”.

He added: “Curriculum for Excellence is the right approach for Scotland and is seen internationally as an inspiring example of curriculum practice.

“Throughout the pandemic, it has produced credible results for our children and young people in the face of exceptional circumstances.”

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