Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group and Harmful Sexual Behaviours Delivery Group – joint meeting minutes: 30 September 2021

Minutes from the joint meeting of the Harmful Sexual Behaviours Delivery Group and the Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group on 30 September 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Barnardo’s Scotland
  • Education Scotland
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services
  • Police Scotland
  • Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Includem
  • Improvement Service
  • The Halt Service, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership
  • YouthLink Scotland
  • Zero Tolerance Scotland
  • Social Work Scotland
  • Women’s Aid
  • Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Stop It Now! Scotland
  • Educational Institute of Scotland
  • Unison
  • CPC Scotland
  • Scottish Government Child Protection Unit
  • Scottish Government Health and Wellbeing Unit
  • Scottish Government Violence Against Women and Girls Unit
  • Scottish Government Equality in Education Team
  • Scottish Government Community Safety Unit


  • ADES
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Scottish Government Early Years and Children’s Services
  • University of Strathclyde

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed attendees and noted apologies.

This meeting brings together the Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group (GBVSWG) and Harmful Sexual Behaviours Delivery Group (HSBDG), to consider the current work on addressing gender based violence and sexual harassment in schools. 

The Chair of the HSBDG provided an update on the background to their work and recent developments, including a National Institute of Health (NIH) webpage Safeguarding: identify, understand and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours in young people, and publication of research exploring potential links between childhood experiences and HSB and a survey of the views of children and young people on online harmful sexual behaviour, to assist services in designing effective support and guidance.

The HSBDG has an Education subgroup, which has met once. The subgroup have established a national network of Child Protection in Education leads and initial communication will be made with them in the coming weeks. The subgroup plan to send a questionnaire to ask leads about their professional learning. The data will then be used to look at what areas of support are required, which may be different in each region or local authority. Technology Assisted Harmful Sexual Behaviours Professional Learning (developed by Stop It Now) is currently delivered by Education Scotland.

The co-chair of the GBVSWG provided an overview of the working group, which is co-chaired by Zero Tolerance, Rape Crisis Scotland, and Scottish Government.

The GBVSWG is a short-life group which will develop a national framework for schools to address gender based violence, as well as looking at strengthening existing resources and identifying examples of effective practice. Prevention and early intervention are key elements of an approach focussed on ensuring we get it right for all children and young people.

The group have met once in February 2020. Unfortunately work was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However some group members were able to publish the Gender Based Violence Wakelet, which includes a range of websites and resources to support professionals to challenge gender based violence and sterOeotypes and promote gender equality. 

Rape Crisis Scotland noted that the work of the Everyday Heroes project highlight strong recommendations from children around this issue.

Purpose of joint meeting

Following the publication of the Everyone’s Invited report in June 2021, and the subsequent Ofted report on sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools and universities in England, Scottish Government officials began to build an overview of work currently being carried out in this area in Scotland. 

There is already significant work underway as part of Scottish Government’s Equally Safe policy to eradicate violence against women and girls, which takes a broader approach than that suggested by the Ofsted review.

The approach suggested in the Everyone’s Invited report of ensuring all schools are enabled to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviours is the approach which the Scottish Government has been pursuing for some time.

The work of both HSBDG’s Education Subgroup and GBVSWG is currently focused on schools. In time, the groups may consider connecting to similar work underway in colleges and universities. 

The Scottish Government-Scottish Green party policy agreement contained a commitment that the GBVSWG and the HSBDG would come together to consider the current evidence base and planned actions to address this issue. The agreement included a commitment to a review, following the completion of the work of both groups, which will consider the impact of the work.

The aim of this meeting is:

  • to identify if there are gaps in the approaches currently underway
  • if there are areas where links needs to be made between projects
  • if there are any changes that need to be made to our approaches in light of the above


There were two points for discussion:

  1.  Is the work that is currently underway, sufficient to address the concerns about sexual harassment in schools?
  2.  If not, what are the actions which should be additionally taken, to support improvement in support for prevention of sexual harassment in schools?

Discussion points and outcomes

  • attendees agreed that it was helpful to see the work collated into one paper, and that the paper demonstrated the large amount of varied work and support which is underway or being developed
  • it was agreed that as much of the work is in early stages. There is a need for data to ensure that the work is effective, this will be addressed by the commitment to review following completion of the GBSWG and HSBDG workplans
  • it is known that schools are currently under increased pressure, and school staff may face barriers to effective implementation of new strategies to tackle sexual harassment and gender based violence in the classroom
  • there may also be a lack of confidence amongst teachers in how to effectively manage incidents when they arise. The outputs from the two groups will need to build confidence for staff in dealing with sexual behaviours
  • it is essential that teachers have an understanding on issues but also know where to get the additional support in the local area. Support for school staff should also include employee support, as incidents in schools between pupils can be triggering to staff
  • additional support needs were not included were not included in the paper. The Chair confirmed that the Scottish Government Health and Wellbeing Unit also lead on additional support for schools and will ensure these links are made
  • it was agreed that all work in this area needs to ensure that independent schools are included. Scottish Council of Independent Schools was part of the joint meeting and is a member of the GBVSWG
  • there is a need to ensure that current work links to trauma-informed approaches to ensure trauma-informed practice
  • engaging with children is an excellent approach to take. We do however need to ensure that we are not putting too much on children to change the environment, by ensuring that the right support and leadership is in place
  • it was noted that RSHP is now a mandatory curriculum requirement in England, but no extra support has been provided for this as yet. There is a need to ensure that teachers’ capacity in Scotland can match any requirement to teach RSHP across the curriculum, and that suitable support continues to be provided
  • a representative from Stop It Now! Scotland shared a resource on a National Survey of Headteachers and Safeguarding Leads in England and Scotland, 2018. This survey asked senior leaders in England and Scotland about the issues faced in addressing the problems caused by peer-on-peer abuse and highlighted the need for internal policies and procedures.
  • COSLA noted the importance of ensuring that schools have access to coherent guidance to enable them to respond to incidents. There is a need to be clear about the different strands of work under Equally Safe which schools have access to and what impact this is having.
  • successful work in this area requires strong links and anchors in the community, which may need further strengthening. Work on gender based violence and sexual harassment would sit with Community Planning Partnerships, Local Authorities and local area strategies. A key question is ensuring that VAWG partnerships are suitably supported in order to ensure that they have capacity. The Equally Safe policy is currently moving into a period of refresh, so this is a good time to ensure that these links are strong.
  • The NSPCC shared information about their HSB audit tool which is currently in use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the self-evaluation tool is used by a local multi-agency group, including education, to gather evidence and assess local practice and processes in order to prevent harmful sexual behaviour from happening or from re-occurring. A pilot of this audit across a small number of diverse local authorities is being considered as action for the HSBDG Research sub-group.
  • The HALT service have recently done research into the impact of online pornography on children and young people, there is a lack of focus on impact of online pornography and inconsistent knowledge and understanding
  • the paper sets out work that GBVSWG and HWBDG are working on specifically on gender based violence, but does not include detailed information on work on relationships and behaviour in schools. Personal and Social Education also sits within the Scottish Government Health and Wellbeing Unit. The National Resource for Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) education for children and young people teaches about relationships, sexual health and boundaries. Use of pornography can lead to unacceptable behaviour and schools are doing their best to tackle this area.
  • it was noted that the work of the Scottish Gender-based Violence and Learning Disabilities Steering Group, which aims to lead and support efforts to eliminate gender-based violence for women with learning disabilities in line with Equally Safe and Towards Transformation, is also relevant to linkage work, particularly in respect to ensuring coherence and bridging transitions between projects

The Chair provided a summary of the discussion

  • meeting attendees recognise that there are many ongoing actions from a range of different perspectives, and different aspects of the work fit together in different ways
  • there is a need for these actions to be linked together
  • there is a need to reflect on what we are going to do to support schools as part of ongoing work, and to ensure the outputs from the GBVSWG and HSBDG is useful and not burdensome. Care should be taken around creating new requirements of schools and school staff
  • work delivered by the groups needs to be undertaken in partnership to meet the needs of children and young people, and school staff
  • there is a need to ensure clear links to Equally Safe policy during the period of refresh, and a need to understand how this work links into local structures and partnerships
  • having identified that the current ongoing actions are varied and wide-ranging, there is a need to focus on delivery


The group agreed that the main focus of any new action from the joint meeting should be on creating links between existing projects to make the landscape feel cohesive. It was suggested that the various pieces of work could be put on a diagram to show what is being delivered and how the different pieces of work interlink. This would help schools, communities and local authorities to be aware of what is available. This would also help to ensure that all groups are sighted on each other’s work and prevent duplication. 

Action: The Scottish Government representatives from the Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group and Harmful Sexual Behaviours Delivery Group agreed to develop a visual overview of the work.

  • education Scotland shared what aspects of school life are reviewed as part of School Inspections, such as safeguarding procedures. Inspections ensure wellbeing, equality and inclusion in schools by reviewing a wide range of areas including curriculum, learning teaching and assessment, universal support, culture and ethos, personalised support and transitions
  • a key area for inspection is leadership and use of self-evaluation. The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) was noted as a good example of a positive whole-school approach to addressing difficult and sensitive topics. A key aspect of the MVP programme has been the involvement of young people. Colleagues from Scottish Government Community Safety Unit, which supports MVP, were present at the joint meeting.
  • Education Scotland explained that should a future thematic inspection be commissioned, this would only look at a limited number of schools. The GBVSWG and HSBDG may wish to consider what would be most helpful for a future thematic inspection to focus on, in order to best understand impact of current work.

Action: The Scottish Government representatives from GBVSWG and HSBDG to engage with Education Scotland on scope of thematic review and indicators of success.

  • it was suggested that a virtual network day with local authority safeguarding and child protection in education leads may be helpful to share an overview of all this work and create a picture of what further support is required locally. A similar event could take place for independent schools
  • this work could fit with the baseline questionnaire being taken forward by the HSBDG Education subgroup. The group were supportive of this suggestion


No further items of business were raised and the Chair thanks participants for their attendance.

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