Teachers will not be expected to stop and search following Bailey Gwynne review

Written by Tom Freeman on 31 January 2017 in News

John Swinney rules out giving teachers power to stop and search pupils

John Swinney - Scottish Parliament

Education Secretary John Swinney has rejected recommendations to give teachers a statutory power to search pupils without permission.

The recommendations formed part of a review of the death of Aberdeen schoolboy Bailey Gwynne following a stabbing in school last year.

The review said teachers should be given the power to stop children and search their possessions, but in a statement to MSPs Swinney said the recommendation would be rejected “after careful consideration”.


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New guidance on violence and weapons in schools will be published in the spring and will learn from the way Aberdeen has responded to the tragedy.

However, Swinney said debate over stop and search powers for police had shown a consistent approach was needed both in and out of school.

"Schools and local authorities in Scotland already have robust processes in place to address concerns about violence and weapons,” he said.

“Those processes take into account health and safety issues and are based on risk assessments that enable staff to deal appropriately with situations in which possession of a weapon is suspected. In such circumstances, teachers may ask to carry out a consensual search.

“Changing the law would confer statutory powers on teachers, which would allow them to compel a young person to be searched.

“Currently, outside of the prison system, this power is held only by the police. We would therefore be placing teachers on the same footing as police officers if we were to change the law. That would radically change the teacher-pupil relationship, which is often fundamental to encouraging young people to change challenging behaviour, and it could damage the school ethos and the commitment to positive relationships that currently exists in Scottish schools.”

The announcement was welcomed by teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland.

General Secretary Larry Flanagan said it was an “appropriately measured” response.

“Experience from England, where teachers have such power, does not suggest that it is a crucial area of intervention,” he said.

“Instead the focus should continue to be on building positive relationships in schools, creating an atmosphere of trust so that students can report concerns to staff, and ensuring that students are aware of the dangers associated with carrying weapons.”

Opposition MSPs also backed the move. Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said she “accepted” the reasoning but called for teachers to get clearer guidance on their ability to ask for consensual searches.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: “I believe the government is right to resist calls for teachers to have statutory powers to search children and young people.  That would have fundamentally changed the relationship between teachers and pupils, undermining trust and confidence.”

Ross Greer MSP, education spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: "Our priority is to ensure that schools are as safe as possible and trust between pupils and teachers is essential to that.”

Swinney also announced the Scottish Government is looking at strengthening laws on purchasing weapons online.  

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