Health and wellbeing in schools

We want all children and young people to be able to learn about health and wellbeing to ensure they acquire skills to live healthy, happy lives.

Health and wellbeing isn't a single subject or class, but is organised into six areas:

  • mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing
  • planning for choices and changes
  • physical education
  • physical activity and sport
  • food and health
  • substance misuse
  • relationships, sexual health and parenthood

Health and wellbeing is also about ensuring that pupils are able to make the most of their educational opportunities regardless of their background or financial circumstances and through promotion of attendance at school.

We have provided a range of resources to ensure children feel happy, safe, included and respected in their learning environment. These resources cover bullying, attendance and school exclusions.

Relationships and behaviours in schools

Improving positive relationships and behaviour is central to the successful delivery of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the implementation of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC).

Behaviour in Scottish schools research helps inform our approach. The Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS) consider the actions which should be taken to address any concerns raised. The latest Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research (2023) survey explored school staffs’ experiences in mainstream schools.

Action to address concerns about relationships and behaviour is being led by the Education Secretary. This includes a Headteachers’ Taskforce which met in June 2023 to discuss school exclusions, and summits on relationships and behaviour in schools. Read more:

Attendance and exclusions

We published guidance in 2018 ‘Developing a positive whole school ethos and culture: relationships, learning and behaviour’ to support local authorities, practitioners and partners to further improve the ethos and culture, and relationships and behaviour in Scottish schools. This supplements guidance published in June 2017 - ‘Included, Engaged and Involved – Part 2 – preventing and managing school exclusions’.

These are also supplemented with guidance ‘Included, engaged and involved part 1: promoting and managing school attendance’ which take the same relational approach to improving attendance and reducing absence from school.

School attendance: a guide for parents details parental responsibility and support available when attendance is a problem.


Our anti-bullying guidance Respect for all: the national approach to anti-bullying for Scotland's children and young people is for everyone working with children and young people and provides a holistic approach to anti-bullying. Our supplementary guidance on recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools sets out a consistent and uniform approach to recording and monitoring of bullying incidents.

In March 2023, we began a planned review of Respect for All, supported by a working group made up of a wide range of stakeholders to understand what updates are required to the guidance to better support schools to prevent and respond to bullying.

A number of resources have been published to complement 'Respect for All'. LGBT Youth Scotland’s Addressing inclusion: effectively challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia resource provides information and guidance to school staff on addressing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in Scottish schools.

Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) published a similar resource, Addressing inclusion: effectively challenging racism in schools, for school staff on addressing racist bullying.

Racism and racist incidents

The Racism and Racist Incidents workstream is part of the Anti Racism in Education ProgrammeThe workstream is supported by a working group. 

This is focussed on developing the support to schools and school staff to improve understanding of racism and to ensure that these issues are properly identified and addressed.

Resources for schools will be developed to prevent and respond to racism and racist incidents, including strengthening approaches to recording and monitoring, and developing guidance on a whole-school approach to anti-racism.

LGBTI inclusive education

Work on LGBT inclusive education is being taken forward by the LGBT Inclusive Education Implementation Group, formed to facilitate implementation of the recommendations of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group which were accepted by Scottish Ministers in November 2018. 

On 23 September 2021, we launched the first phase of LGBT Inclusive Education, consisting of:

The Implementation Group will deliver as many of the remaining recommendations as they can, which consist of:

  • an additional professional learning module on LGBT inclusion in curricular content
  • additional suites of LGBT inclusive teaching resources
  • working collaboratively with Education Scotland to review and develop new LGBT Inclusive Education related Benchmarks
  • working with the Scottish Qualifications Authority to publish new LGBT inclusive course content

In implementing this first phase of LGBT inclusive education, Scotland has become the first country in the world to have LGBT inclusive education embedded right across the curriculum.

We published Supporting transgender young people in schools: guidance for Scottish schools on 12 August 2021. This is non-statutory guidance for education authorities and schools on legislation, policy and practice to inform their approaches to supporting transgender young people. This guidance has been subject to equality and child rights and wellbeing impact assessments and fully aligns with the Equality Act 2010 and other legislation.

Mental health support 

School counselling

The 2018/19 Programme for Government included a commitment to invest in access to school counselling services across education. Access to counselling support through secondary schools is now in place across Scotland. Scottish Government continue to support our local authority partners with £16 million in funding to ensure that every secondary school has access to counselling services. 

The Scottish Government and local authority leaders reached a joint agreement on the distribution of funding and a set of aims and principles for the delivery of the commitment. Guidance for local authorities was also produced to assist in the design and development of the access to counsellors in secondary schools programme.

Local authorities provide six-monthly reports on the commitment. A summary of those reports is now available. 

Mental health education

School counselling will enhance the work that schools already do to support children and young people to learn about mental wellbeing as part of health and wellbeing in Curriculum for Excellence. Mental health education is usually delivered through Personal and Social Education (PSE) classes and delivery is informed by a set of Health and Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes.

The Health and Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes aim to ensure that children and young people understand the importance of mental wellbeing and that this can be fostered and strengthened through personal coping skills and positive relationships. Children and young people will learn that it is not always possible to enjoy good mental health and that if this happens there is support available.

A wide range of information and resources are available on Education Scotland’s National Improvement Hub which enhance support and professional learning materials for practitioners on mental wellbeing.

Mental Health in Schools Working Group

mental health in schools working group was established to support the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting positive mental health in children and young people in school. 

The group developed an online professional learning resource that provides essential learning required to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Although aimed at school staff, the resource is free and available to anyone who wishes to access it at: CYPMH – Professional Learning Resource 

The group also published a Whole School Approach Framework which provides practical measures that a school and a local authority can use to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing: Mental health and wellbeing: whole school approach: framework.  

Gender based violence

The Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group is developing a framework document to help ensure consistency in messages on sexual harassment and gender based violence for everyone working with children and young people. This work is expected to be completed in 2023. The working group is jointly chaired by Scottish Government, Rape Crisis Scotland and Zero Tolerance.

Personal and social education

Work is being undertaken to strengthen learning and teaching in personal and social education (PSE) in response to the recommendations of the PSE Review, completed in January 2019. Find out more: Personal social education review

Relationships, sexual health and parenthood

Guidance for teachers on the Conduct of relationships, sexual health and parenthood education in schools clearly states how important it is that this education addresses consent and healthy relationships including diversity and reflects the issues facing children and young people in a modern society. Updated teaching guidance will be published in 2024.

Mobile phones

Safe and responsible use of mobile technology in schools: guidance provides advice for schools and local authorities on how to develop policies relating to mobile phones in school.

Physical education

We are committed to schools delivering at least two hours of PE per week for all pupils in primary school, and at least two 50-minute periods of PE for all pupils between Secondary 1 and Secondary 4.  The latest Schools Healthy Living Survey Statistics Report notes that over 99% of primary schools and 95% of secondary schools are meeting this target.

Under the provisions of Curriculum for Excellence, schools have the flexibility to decide upon the content of their PE lessons at the local level, taking into account the local needs and circumstances of their pupils.

Food and health

As part of health promotion, schools are required to provide food which meets strict nutritional standards, given the major benefits these have for pupils' current and future health. The standards call for a variety of dishes available so pupils learn about making healthy choices about what they eat.

We consulted on making school food healthier, following recommendations by an independent group in 2018 and a majority of responses to this consultation agreed with the proposed nutritional standards set out in the independent working group’s report. We also published a report on the responses we received to our consultation. The new regulations came into effect on 8 April 2021, replacing the previous regulations which had been in place since August 2008. We have published refreshed guidance on healthy eating in schools (February 2021), to accompany the new regulations.

Substance misuse

Children and young people will learn about a variety of substances including alcohol, medicines, drugs, tobacco and solvents as part of Curriculum for Excellence. They will explore the impact risk taking behaviour has on life choices and health.

We are reviewing the resources used to deliver learning and teaching under this subject in line with the recommendations from the Drug Deaths Task Force.

To ensure we have an understanding of young people's substance misuse we also support the Health and Welbeing Census.

Financial support for learning

Free school meals

Free school meals are available to all pupils in the first five years of primary school at all publicly funded schools. Find out more: free school meals.

School clothing grants

School clothing grants are paid directly by local authorities to low income families to help with the cost of buying a school uniform. Find out more: school clothing grants on the site.


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