THERE have been 13,480 violent incidents reported by school staff in Fife over the past seven years - and it's getting worse.

In the whole of 2017 the council was told of 1,221 cases but in the first 10 months of this year there have already been 3,637 reports and an increasing number have been classed as "serious".

The worst month on record was March with 610 violent incidents, with 22 school days that month due to strike action it works out at roughly 27 incidents a day in Fife.

Convener of the education scrutiny committee, Councillor Kathleen Leslie, said the growing behaviour issue was a national one: “A lot of it came about because of the disconnect with education during the pandemic and there's no easy solution.

Dunfermline Press: A social worker has been placed at Inverkeithing High School to work with pupils who 'need extra support'.A social worker has been placed at Inverkeithing High School to work with pupils who 'need extra support'. (Image: David Wardle)

“Schools are trying to put in more pupil support assistance time and they’re updating personal and social education to ensure everyone is clear on behaviour that’s acceptable and unacceptable.

"We know that teachers and school communities across Scotland are concerned about the increase in violent incidents in schools and it’s something we’re taking very seriously."

She added: “Any form of violence towards teachers and pupils is unacceptable and we’re committed to safe working practices and training for our staff."

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Councillors had called for more detailed analysis and a report by Shelagh McLean, head of education and children’s services, to the committee on Tuesday outlined the scale of the problem.

Physical and verbal attacks were a big issue before Covid-19 but since the easing of the pandemic the numbers have rocketed.

In 2018 there were 1,562 violent incidents reported, it climbed in 2019 to 1,705 before dipping to 1,163 and 1,207 in 2020 and 2021 respectively, when schools were closed for long periods due to lockdown.

But in 2022 the violence escalated, with incidents more than doubling to 2,985.

By the end of October 2023, there had been 3,637 reports - 2,788 were physical and 698 recorded as verbal abuse.

Ms McLean's report added: "From mid-January 2023 until end of March 2023 there was an increasing number of serious incidents (17 from nine schools, up from four serious incidents August to December 2022) in our secondary schools in Fife.

"We know this via serious incidents forms sent by headteachers."

From April to June, there were a further 10 'serious' violence and aggression incidents at four high schools, all related to assaults / fighting, and three more between August and October.

As a pilot scheme four social workers have been placed in high schools with 'high deprivation and high levels of non-attendance' - Inverkeithing, Lochgelly, Glenwood and Levenmouth - to work with pupils who need extra support.

Cllr Leslie said: “I would personally like to reassure parents and carers across Fife that the safety and wellbeing of all our children and staff is a priority.

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"We are working hard and we will continue to work with all our school communities to make sure our staff and young people have a positive experience at school.”

The council's focus is on working with staff, trade unions and families to promote positive behaviour and de-escalate situations - teachers will be given refresher training - and a multi-agency group, including the police and NHS Fife, is discussing support for school staff and young people, as well as advice on subjects such as knife crime, drugs, mental health and use of social media.

She added that they're trying to recruit more full-time guidance staff and organise more out of school activities as a "distraction", especially in areas "where there are high levels of crime for those under 16".