Education bosses in Moray hope the end of the coronavirus pandemic will finally reverse a sustained increase in violence in schools.
Instances of aggression in the region have nearly trebled in the last seven years with shock statistics revealing 1,151 incidents were recorded in 2019.
Meanwhile, Moray Council figures show less than 400 were recorded as recently as 2013.
Senior officers have explained an action plan had already been drawn up to address the worrying trend and have stressed progress had been expected to be seen by now if not for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hopes have now been raised that the increase of violence in Moray schools will start to reduce in future years.
Councillors have stressed the need for the issue to be treated as an ongoing priority within the education department.
Meanwhile, union representatives say resources have had to be spread more sparsely due to the rising number of pupils with additional support needs (ASN).
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross, who is a former teacher, said: “It’s very worrying. We have to bear in mind the effect this has, not only on the children exhibiting problems in that area, but also on our other young people.
“We have a Girfec (getting it right for every child) policy, but sometimes I think we’re not getting it right for any child.
“This has to be made a real priority. It’s time we got on top of the situation. Morale of all school staff really suffers as a result of this, especially when it is happening this frequently.”
Moray Council has reported in its annual health and safety review that the “majority” of the violence in schools has involved a “small number” of pupils with additional support needs.
Statistics show that 59% of the cases were a “physical assault with no weapon” while 89% of the incidents were reported in primary schools.
Frances Garrow, Moray Council’s head of human resources, said: “We do have a plan of action that was halted because of the pandemic.
“We have got it back up and running now. It has been based on information from staff members about the levels, types, frequency and duration of incidents to give us an indication of what’s happening.
“I do feel we have something more tangible in place now and we should be looking to see some impact from that over the next few months.”
Conservative group leader Tim Eagle described the increase of incidents of violence in Moray schools as a “steady stair climb” from 2013’s levels.
He said: “Yes, there’s a better amount of reporting and yes we are trying to address it, but how many years does it take before we start to see a decrease?
“I don’t know how long our staff have to suffer before we do something about it.”
Susan Slater, secretary of the Moray branch of union EIS, said resources to help teachers cope with the trend had become more stretched.
She said: “One of the concerns I have is the report clearly indicates a number of these increases involve pupils with ASN.
“The budget for this area has not necessarily been cut, but the number of pupils has increased, which means there has been a real-terms reduction in support on the ground.”