Indiscipline Complacency

Today the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association condemned the continuing complacency of Scottish Government towards the problem of indiscipline in Scottish schools. The Association called for a re-calibration of the extent of the problem and the resumption of the co-ordinated and government directed action that followed the publication of Better Behaviour Better Learning in 2001.

Alan McKenzie, Acting General Secretary said “We seem to have lost our way a bit since 2001. There once was a clear path to progress set down by Better Behaviour Better Learning. That path has become difficult to navigate because local authorities and indeed individual schools re-invent the wheel on an individual basis. The SSTA has always called for a national plan”.

Margaret Smith, President of the SSTA said 'This issue of indiscipline in Scottish schools, both serious indiscipline and lower level misbehaviour, is an issue which has long concerned me. Over the years I have spoken out against what I consider to be an ad hoc and somewhat complacent attitude on the part of some authorities and managers regarding indiscipline in our schools.

I recently attended an ETUCE Conference in Budapest (International Education Conference) where I had reinforced that this is not a uniquely Scottish problem, and that teachers throughout Europe consider that tackling indiscipline is of the utmost priority if education standards are to be maintained and strengthened and the professionalism and physical and mental health of teachers are to be protected.

My impression was, however, that most European countries are calling for a co-ordinated approach to indiscipline and see tackling it as part of the 'duty of care' all employers have towards their employees. This is rarely the situation in Scotland.

Standards of tolerance regarding quite shocking levels of misbehaviour, including physical and verbal abuse of teachers differ greatly from school to school, depending on the level of support offered by management towards teaching staff. This is the crux of the matter. Indiscipline is not just an issue for deprived areas, something that teachers in the so called 'leafy suburbs' do not have to worry about - if teachers are not supported it can, and does, affect any school.

A sinister development over the past decade or so has been the co-ordinated targeting of some teachers. Social media networks, mobile phones and other technologies to which pupils have access make it so much easier to make a teacher's life intolerable and his or her job impossible. Along with verbal abuse, threats and ridicule, teachers, usually women, are often subjected to grossly offensive comments regarding their personal lives which can be deemed nothing other than sexual harassment. Too often nothing is done to combat this behaviour and pupils believe that their conduct is without consequence.

I have spoken out in the past about a tendency to 'blame the victim,' - to assume that teachers thus targeted must be poor teachers, or incapable of exercising proper control. Education, however, should not be expected to be a vaudeville act, or non stop entertainment. Success requires hard work, from both teacher and pupil, but the teacher cannot succeed alone. If classes are disrupted, everyone suffers, and no teacher, can face co-ordinated disruption without support to counter it.

Teacher stress levels currently are at an all time high. Part of the reason for this, without doubt, is the return to very large classes, workload issues and the constant changes being made to teachers' working conditions. I am totally convinced, however, that if we were to see a concerted approach to tackling indiscipline in our schools, much teacher stress would be alleviated, if not eliminated.

It is a problem which will not go away and to which we cannot, as is too often the case, continue to turn a blind eye”.

For further information contact:-

Alan McKenzie

Acting General Secretary