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Violence in UK schools: what is really happening?

Newspaper reports frequently tell us that behaviour in UK schools is getting worse. Bullying is commonplace, they say, and teachers are harassed and abused on a daily basis. Internationally, according to some experts, violence in schools is a serious and growing problem. But what is the evidence? Are schools in the UK really becoming more violent places? And what do we actually mean by this?

This Insight review assesses the up-to-date information on this controversial topic. There is a wealth of relevant material, but it comes from a variety of sources and disciplinary perspectives.  We have brought it together in order to provide a broad, coherent and, where information is available, an accurate picture of what is happening. Some pupils, parents and teachers say that they worry a great deal about bullying and safety in schools. While these are understandable concerns, they nevertheless should be tempered by the evidence.

Key messages are that extreme cases of violence, including severe bullying which leads to death, are very rare in UK schools.  By contrast, low-level disruption, verbal aggression (for example, between pupils and towards teachers) and cyberbullying appear to be increasing. This Insight aims to show that the problems confronting schools are indeed changing, but perhaps not in the ways often suggested by the extreme cases highlighted by the media.