Gender based violence in schools working group minutes: February 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 11 February 2020.

Attendees and apologies



  • Learning Directorate, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA)
  • Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS)
  • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service  (COPFS)
  • NASWUT, The Teachers Union
  • Glasgow University 
  • Education Scotland (ES)
  • Learning Directorate, Scottish Government (LD)
  • Learning Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Learning Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Learning Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Child Protection Unit, Scottish Government (CPU)
  • Equality Unit, Scottish Government (EU)
  • Teacher Education, Leadership and Reform Unit, Scottish Government (TE)

Communication Group


  • Children and Families, Scottish Government
  • Safer Communities Division, Scottish Government
  • Education Scotland
  • Education Scotland



  • Zero Tolerance
  • Violence Reduction Unit, Scottish Government 

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair: 

  • welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made
  • provided an update on the overall work of the Support and Wellbeing Team and confirmed that this was a significant piece of work in the team and had many overlaps within the team and also wider Government Departments
  • confirmed that meetings will be jointly chaired between Scottish Government and Rape Crisis Scotland/Zero Tolerance
  • explained that both the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary of Education and Skills and the Minister for Older People and Equalities are keen to be kept up to date with this work, officials will keep them informed of progress to reassure that we are addressing the key issues
  • outlined the purpose of the meeting which is to develop a national framework to prevent and respond to harmful behaviour and gender based violence in schools and ensure that this work aligns to current programmes and other key policy drivers. This is a working group and the expectation is that everyone round the table can contribute in some way to the development of materials and professional learning resources. Sub groups may be established to take specific pieces of work forward
  • explained that a webpage will be set up on the SG website which will contain the Terms of Reference and all minutes
  • confirmed that there is a Correspondence Group made up of a number of organisations who are interested and can contribute in this work going forward

Terms of reference

The Chair invited comments from the group on the Terms of Reference.

The Terms of Reference will be updated to reflect the discussions. A final version will be agreed at the next meeting.

Scottish Government update

RCS provided an overview of Equally Safe which is the Scottish Government and COSLA’s jointly owned strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls. It sets out a vision of a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and protected, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse – and the attitudes that help perpetuate them. RCS explained that this has a governance structure for feeding into ministers if group wants to make use of this. 

RCS are pleased that this group has formed and priorities primary prevention. This is a good opportunity to challenge stereotypes and the links with Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) and Developing the Young Workforce (DYW). RCS also advised that Young Scot have been commissioned to co-design an online resource on gender based violence for CYP - this might be an avenue for developing resources for this group. 

RCS outlined the work of the Everyday Heroes Participation Project which was funded by the Scottish Government and which sought views directly from children and young people about their experience in education. It is clear that children and young people are looking for holistic and systematic action across our education system to help address these issues and tackle gender based violence.

LD officials provided an update to the group on the Review of PSE and the recommendations being taken forward as part of this work. LD also informed the group that the Relationships Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) teaching guidance is being reviewed and will include a section on relationships and consent. LD also outlined the work of Education Scotland on sexual harassment. All these pieces of work will help inform a toolkit from PSE review. This will be a vast online resource that will help signpost teachers and school staff to effective practice. 

LD outlined the links between the effect GBV on the mental and physical health of children and young people and outlined the work being taken forward by the Mental Health in Schools Working Group who are developing professional learning for all school staff. As with all of our documents, any resources developed need to focus on early intervention and prevention.  

LD provided an update on the national approach to anti-bullying and the new procedures for all schools around recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools. 

TE provided the group with an update on the work of the Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning which will consider how well gender equality is embedded in education and learning in Scotland. It will also identify potential solutions to address areas where gender inequality still exists. The first meeting will take place on 25 February and will be jointly chaired by the Deputy First Minister and 17 year old  Razannah Hussain, an #IWill Ambassador. The Minister for Equalities and Older People also sits on the group. It is envisaged that it will produce a strategy which will set out a range of initiatives to address gender inequality in education and learning settings. VAG in schools will be a key part of the Taskforce’s deliberations, so the establishment of this working group is particularly timely, with the opportunity to feed in. The Taskforce will conclude its work in early 2021 with the publication of the strategy.  

Education Scotland update

ES delivered a presentation of the various workstreams within Education Scotland including GBV, sexual harassment, MVP and Improving Gender Balance (funded through STEM). All these areas of work have a focus on whole school approach, building capacity within the curriculum, a more holistic to prevention – not narrow – life of the school.

The presentation can be found on the covering email.

Rape Crisis Scotland update

RCS provided an update on Rape Crisis Scotland’s National Sexual Violence Prevention Programme and the whole school approach Equally Safe at School which it is piloting in partnership with Zero Tolerance, and discussed potential relationship to the GBV working group.   

The presentations can be found in the covering email.

Work going forward

The group then had a brief discussion about the proposed work. It was agreed that further comments would be sought via email. Additional comments included:

  • clear articulation of what GBV is
  • how do we build on the work already going on in schools?
  • overall picture of what we do / don’t have and what every school in Scotland who’s doing what would be helpful
  • what is the piece of work we need to do to fill the gaps we have identified?
  • we need to bring the experts with us, this can’t be a specialist subject 
  • needs to be built within school environments and use existing structures
  • how do we balance Children’s Rights and participation

Action points:

  • LD to issue questions to the group
  • LD to invite ADES onto the working group
  • LD to explore options around what is taught during Initial Teacher Education on GBV with the Council of Deans
  • LD to ensure EQIA commences early

Next meeting 24th March 10 – 1pm, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh. 


No other business was raised.

The Chair closed the meeting.

Learning Directorate
Scottish Government 
March 2020

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