Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group Minutes: May 2023

Minutes from the meeting on 28 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Zero Tolerance (Chair)
  • Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES)
  • Educational Institute Scotland (EIS)
  • National Associations of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
  • Scottish Council of Independent Schools
  • Education Scotland
  • Scottish Government – Health and Wellbeing Unit
  • Scottish Government – Equality in Education (GETEL)
  • Scottish Government – Child Protection
  • Scottish Government – Community Safety Unit


  • Scottish Women’s Aid

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The chair welcomed members and noted apologies.

Minutes and actions from 28 March (paper One)

All members were content for the March minutes to be published.

Action: SG to publish minutes to the webpage.

SG advised that there was an outstanding action from the previous meeting regarding NASUWT request for SG to email Directors of Education about the framework to encourage their support for schools’/teachers’ engagement. This action will be taken forward following this meeting.

Scenarios (paper two)

The Chair advised that the Scenarios section had been restructured around ‘what do I do if…?’ scenarios. Some changes have yet to be made.

Action – SG to redraft all scenarios to make age neutral. Consideration of age of learners will be added under ‘things to consider’ section in each scenario.

Scenarios – opening comments

Rape Crisis advised that the drafting of all scenarios had improved in standardisation and consistency. It is important to ensure that there is enough specificity in the scenarios to ensure that language and actions relate particularly to GBV, rather than general behaviour policy. In the responses to CYP who have experienced GBV, need to ensure that there is enough space for the CYP to name what their needs are, bearing in mind the sensitivities.

Action – Rape Crisis to review scenarios to ensure specificity to GBV and inclusion of what CYP may need in those situations.

NASUWT highlighted that in real situations, there is not always a clear narrative about the person who has acted and the person who has experienced. For example, if the person catcalled has reacted by pushing the person catcalling. In other scenarios, the people most affected may be bystanders or staff. This should be reflected in more nuance in the language used in scenarios.

Action – NASUWT to suggest edits to reflect nuance/complexities in scenarios.

EIS queried whether it should be ‘scenarios for school staff’ rather than ‘teachers’.

The Chair invited the group to consider each scenario in turn, and provide comments.

Scenario One

The group considered the practicalities of the scenario. For example, finding a quiet space is good but school staff would need to consider: whether the person who has received the report is the most appropriate to discuss in a private space; when should this discussion take place; can it be scheduled later?

EIS noted that school staff are often not using SEEMiS to record incidents. School staff should use school processes to record in line with school policies and pass on to designated member of staff to record on SEEMiS.

Action – EIS to suggest edits to Scenario 1.

SG GETEL highlighted that the penultimate bullet point in Scenario 1 should emphasise that follow up action is necessary, not optional.

Action – SG to review wording on penultimate bullet point in Scenario 1.

The Chair noted that Scenario 1 frames catcalling as misogynistic language. Catcalling is sexual harassment. Suggest instead ‘sexual harassment, catcalling, or misogynistic language’ instead.

Action – SG to reword description of incident to include ‘sexual harassment’.

Scenario Two

EIS queried if coercive behaviour is defined elsewhere in the document.

Action – SG to check that coercive behaviour is defined in glossary and is mentioned explicitly in Section B.

Scenario B is currently about threats to share images. Further detail is needed to support understanding of the impact of behaviour, and why CYP may feel compelled to comply in situations of coercive control.

Action – Rape Crisis to follow up with Women’s Aid around coercive behaviour, and suggest any necessary edits.

The group considered to what extent it would be useful to flag ‘don’t dos’ for school staff, for example don’t question why a young person allowed a photograph to be taken in the first place. It is important that the document is a supportive and positive, but it is also important for the advice to show that there are ways of responding to reports which are not helpful for CYP. This ties into the specificity of GBV policy, as discussed earlier.

EIS noted that care should be taken not to place pressure on school staff to ‘get it right’ as school staff can already be nervous about getting it wrong in sensitive situations. The group considered what the most helpful way of framing this information would be. It was suggested that reflections on what CYP find most helpful in situations may be most appropriate – for example, where the document notes that young people may feel blame, it could also highlight that school staff should focus on reassuring CYP that they are not to blame.

Action – SG, EIS, Rape Crisis, NASUWT and Zero Tolerance to review all Scenarios and Sections E/F with a view to where CYP might encounter unhelpful responses.

NSPCC noted that threatening to share images is coercive behaviour, these are not two separate issues, as is currently drafted in Scenario 2.

Action – SG to clarify Scenario 2 regarding coercive behaviour / threats.

Scenario Three

The Chair noted that inappropriate touching is sexual assault. Education Scotland noted that where staff reassure pupil (where it is established no child protection concerns), need to add a line on consensual touch.

Action – SG to clarify Scenario 3 re inappropriate touch / sexual assault / addition of consensual touch.

Scottish Government noted that this scenario will vary a lot based on the age of the CYP involved, and queried if this scenario is better as age neutral.

It was noted that considerations about child protection and multi agency responses would remain regardless of age, but the meaning of the incident to the CYP involved will vary. The group agreed to draft scenario as age neutral, and add age specific considerations into ‘points to consider’. This will be picked up under previous action on age neutral scenarios.

NSPCC advised that the document include a statement explaining that behaviours including and related to GBV can start in very young children, and that all the scenarios should reflect this.

Action – SG action to add line to indicate that these behaviours can include younger children, not just older children.

Scenario Four

Chair noted that Scenario 4 needs further consideration. The group agreed that Scenario 4 functions to highlight how GBV can intersect with other protected characteristics. Members noted it may be useful to have this scenario describe a possible way in which GBV can intersect with race.

Action – Rape Crisis and Zero Tolerance to draft Scenario 4, in consultation with colleagues. 

Scenario Five

The Chair noted that this scenario reads a little differently from others. The group reflected on what the audience is for this scenario? NASUWT noted that school staff do not need to know if something would meet a criminal test. The guidance should be limited to informing school staff of who to refer to in these situations.

Action – SG to review Section E/F for clarity about reporting obligations for schools around child protection and police referral.

SG asked if there should be a scenario where there is a criminal action, and the school is part of a broader response with other agencies. Or, if there should be one scenario where the action for the school is to refer on to other agencies.

The Chair noted that incidents can often come to schools from an outside source, eg the police. Schools then need to know what action they should take inside school.

SG Child Protection noted that where there is a criminal investigation, schools would be receiving support from Police Scotland. It may be more difficult for schools where there has not been official investigation, and school would need to decide how to respond.

NSPCC highlighted that there can be situations where rumours circulate within schools about incidents, but no criminal proceedings are ongoing. It was agreed that scenario should include consideration of rumours and impact on CYP wellbeing.

The group discussed situations where a young person reports to a school but does not want to make a police referral. Where a school has reason to believe that child has experienced significant harm or a possible criminal incident, the school has a duty to report this, where possible with the consent of the individual. There may be instances were schools have to take action against a young person’s wishes.

Group agreed that Scenario Five should be changed to party scenario.

Action – Rape Crisis to redraft Scenario Five. Replace existing scenario with new scenario, whereby staff become aware of rumours of a pupil being raped at a party. Could include element where there is a criminal investigation ongoing, involving pupils at the school.

Scenario Six

Rape Crisis recalled that one of the reasons this scenario was included was to raise awareness of specific issues/considerations around FGM. There is a need to build in something on considerations of parents/family.

Action – Rape Crisis to make further suggestions for Scenario Six.

Scenario Seven

The group considered drafting notes relating to the age of the children in this scenario. EIS noted that young children are often displaying these kind of behaviours. It was agreed that the scenario should reflect common behaviours that school staff are responding to. If the pupils in this scenario were older, it would introduce a different dynamic. This will be addressed under the earlier action to redraft scenarios to make them age neutral, adding consideration of age under ‘points to consider’.

Scenarios – general comments

The Chair asked for any further comments on the Scenarios section.

NSPCC reflected that previous discussions had suggested covering how the school uniform policy is communicated to young people in school can be a consistent source of tension, particularly with girls. Girls can feel that they are being accused of sexualised behaviours.

It was noted that there is a line on this in the Universal Approaches Section.

SG asked if there needs to be a specific scenario about responding to school uniform policy incidents (eg young girl asked to change clothes to meet uniform policy). It was agreed that this would be helpful. 

Chair noted that it is in the response to a young women wearing clothes where GBV may occur.

Action – NSPCC and Zero Tolerance to draft new scenario regarding responding to school uniform policy incidents (eg young girl asked to change clothes to meet uniform policy).

Action – SG to link with colleagues who lead on school uniform policy.

Rape Crisis highlighted that the scenarios as currently drafted do not address intersections with disability. Disabled CYP are at higher risk for all types of GBV.

The group discussed whether to build this into existing scenarios. However, this may miss the particular power dynamics which drive incidents of GBV against disabled women. Education Scotland noted that if disability is not explicitly referenced, it can be missed or not thought about.

The group agreed that it would be more meaningful to include a specific scenario addressing the intersection of GBV and disability.

Action – Rape Crisis to draft new scenario to include specific considerations of disability and GBV.

A gap was also noted around intersection of transphobia and GBV

Action – Education Scotland to draft new scenario to include specific considerations of transphobia

Section E/F (paper four)

The Chair requested that members focus particularly on Section F, and opened to comments from the group.

The Chair noted the mention of ‘distressed behaviour’ in the opening paragraph of the Targeted Approaches section, and requested rephrasing away from this terminology as GBV is about power.

Action – SG to review reference to ‘distressed behaviour’.

NASUWT highlighted concerns about the prominence given to restorative practice in the draft. There are many approaches which schools may use in line with their behaviour policies. Giving prominence to this particular approach implies that it is the best or ideal approach.

In a situation where it is a member of school staff who has experienced GBV, they may feel pressure to go along with restorative approach even where it would be unhelpful or unsafe for them. Pupils may feel even greater pressure to do so.

The Chair noted that the section on restorative practice came from previous conversations about responding to the person who has carried out GBV and asked if there could more suggestions about how to respond to CYP.

SG noted that inclusion of restorative practice was not meant to imply that this should be taken, but to highlight limits of this approach.

Chair suggested that restorative approaches may be better placed in an appendix. Rape Crisis suggested reframe this section to highlight the concerns with restorative approaches. A redrafted section could include what qualities / what does a response to a person who has carried out GBV want to achieve?

ADES noted that responses need to be trauma informed. Different local authorities will have different approaches, as well different schools. It is important that the guidance is not too prescriptive and is particularly mindful of the trauma of the person who has experienced GBV.

NSPCC highlighted that where a young person is displaying coercive behaviours, it is important to intervene early to support young person to consider the damage and impact of their behaviours.

Action – SG to set up focused discussion on responses / consequences within section E/F with Education Scotland, NASUWT, Rape Crisis, Zero Tolerance and ADES.


The Chair offered to send email to members to update on planned CYP engagement with the draft guidance.

Following the meeting, Zero Tolerance submitted this update on engagement:

Zero Tolerance, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and East Renfrewshire are leading on engaging children and young people on the guidelines. They have made primary and secondary school friendly versions of the prevention section. They will do the same for the scenarios once they are more finalised. So far young survivors, young activists on gender equality, and P6 and 7 pupils will be included in the engagement. This will take place in early June, subject to the scenarios being more finalised.

SG noted that draft remains confidential and subject to changes. SG asked if there are particular organisations which members felt should be included in engagement plans.

Action – Chair to email to group about plans for CYP engagement.

Owing to the need to have a draft ready for engagement, it was agreed that actions following from today’s meeting should be given early consideration.

Action – SG to email members as soon as possible to share actions list from today’s meeting and request comments on draft by 19 May 2023. Members are also requested to submit any suggestions about engagement with CYP.

The chair thanked members and closed meeting

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