Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group Minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Gender Based Violence in Schools Working Group on 19 September 2023

Attendees and apologies

  • Scottish Government - Health and Wellbeing Unit (Chair)
  • Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Zero Tolerance
  • Scottish Women’s Aid
  • Education Scotland
  • Time for Inclusive Education
  • Educational Institute Scotland (EIS)
  • National Associations of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • Scottish Government - Violence Against Women and Girls Team
  • Scottish Government – Equality in Education (GETEL)


  • Stop It Now
  • Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES)
  • National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed attendees and noted apologies.

Children and Young People’s engagement paper

The Chair noted that the paper covers CYP engagement carried out in June, and records where this has been reflected in the framework. The Chair invited comments on the report.

Comments received included:

  • this is a detailed report, and the value and importance of engagement with CYP was noted
  • there is a division between within and outwith school. School staff are not responsible for things that happen outside school. The Framework needs to be clear for school staff where responsibilities begin and end
  • it was noted that GBV is a systemic societal problem. Asking staff to monitor incidents is ideal, but the scale of incidents may make recording minor incidents unachievable
  • CYP comments further emphasises need for LGBT-inclusive work to be focused on rational approaches and linked to other work
  • the experiences of children and young people may not follow clear divides of in school and out of school. It was noted that the guidance has recognised there are specific circumstances which are the direct responsibility of the school and education authority. Other areas are complex, such as transport, as responsibility depends on a variety of factors. It may also be that schools are the first point of contact, which triggers partnership working. Guidance has aimed to be clear about when incidents are direct responsibility of school staff. SG will consider how to draw these distinctions out more clearly
  • this Framework can be linked to wider Education Scotland work in communities

The Chair discussed plans to update the CYP Engagement Report once there is a final draft of the Framework, to ensure that the two documents match. Consideration will be given to publication of the CYP Engagement Report to ‘close the feedback loop’. It was noted that it may be helpful to develop a CYP friendly version to highlight impact of CYP voices. 

The Chair confirmed that working group are content with this report, and will consider future publication in due course.

Action - SG to follow up with TIE if there is opportunity to strengthen this section of Framework in light of CYP comments.

Action - SG will consider how to draw out clear distinctions on what is direct responsibility of schools with regards to incidents of GBV.

Action - Consider future publication of CYP Engagement Report.

Critical Friends Engagement paper and draft Framework

The Chair drew attention to the revised draft Framework and the Critical Friend engagement overview paper.

Key feedback received from engagement with critical friends was on the length of the Framework. Risk is that it is too long and school staff will not engage.

The Chair noted that the ADES member sent apologies to the meeting today, but that the Framework had been shared with ADES CYP/ASN network with positive feedback.

Working group members considered the Critical Friend engagement overview paper and commented:

  • information for headteachers usually limited to around 2 pages. Anything further needs dedicated resource and timing to enable engagement. Can and should shorten significantly, but also needs dedicated resource
  • framework needs to be readable and accessible. Needs support for school staff to engage. Necessity not to slash something which is nuanced and meaningful
  • there is a need for further edits to remove repetition, being mindful of creating balance between nuance and accessibility
  • the group considered ways in which to make the document more accessible, including key sections for headteachers and splitting the resources or scenarios into separate documents. Aspects of framework, such as resources or scenarios, could be hosted separately on Education Scotland website
  • there was mixed feedback from teacher engagement on scenarios was noted, with concerns that Scenarios can oversimplify incidents
  • SG noted a preference for single document, which will be published on ScotGov website and Education Scotland website
  • SG confirmed that secretariat will consider how we present evidence base within text, using hyperlinks rather than footnotes to reduce length
  • the introduction and context sections may contain information that is already known to school staff. Could this be reduced further and have focus on specifics for Universal and Targeted GBV. Key features of Universal / Targeted and Key Considerations sections were noted to be helpful
  • the section which discusses support available from other agencies was flagged in feedback as not feeling representative of what is available to schools. It may be more useful to signpost to the person responsible for pastoral care / head teacher, to help staff build awareness of what links are available depending on local contexts
  • references to engaging with boys and young men can be made clearer. Combatting GBV will benefit boys as much as girls as it addresses issues around toxic masculinity. This can be covered in Intersectionality and Universal Approaches
  • there may be an assumption that the Framework is designed more for older children, however it is clear from teacher engagement that GBV is present in early years onwards. Need to be clear that Targeted Responses to GBV is for Primary onwards
  • there could be more links to community and parents, particularly around whole school approaches. It is important to situate this Framework within the broader framework of policy for behaviour in schools, including PSE and the Promise
  • on the Appendix on Restorative Approaches, it was noted that there is not consensus across the system about utilising these approaches. There is a risk of harm in using these approaches to GBV
  • section F on staff experience of GBV could go further on noting the long-term mental health impact of GBV
  • there may be a gap in the Framework in terms of responding to the person carrying out the GBV, for incidents which are between low-level responses and a more escalated response. SG confirmed that this is an important point of judgement for school staff, and the Framework may therefore be limited in how much further it can go in that space. SG noted that the Framework has been checked by Police Scotland

The Chair noted that the general feedback received was supportive and welcoming of the Framework, and that the Framework is broadly in the right space, notwithstanding the edits that remain to be made. 

The Chair reviewed the agreed actions for editing the framework:

  • replace footnotes with hyperlinks
  • reduce introduction and context sections
  • universal / targeted section to be reviewed for duplication
  • consideration of scenarios section and where this should be hosted
  • consideration of ‘support available’ section to direct to local resources
  • add further references to engaging with boys and young men
  • clarify that Framework is for Primary onwards
  • emphasise that Framework is within the broader framework of policy for behaviour in schools, including PSE and the Promise
  • review Appendix on Restorative Approaches
  • section F: mental health impacts on school staff

Next steps

The intention is that the Framework will be published by the end of the year. Work is therefore now on a critical path towards publication.

The next step is that the Framework will go to COSLA CYP Board on 06 October. It will also go to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

The working group confirmed that they were content to share framework with COSLA.

The working group confirmed that they were content to proceed on critical path towards publication by end of year.


The Chair confirmed that Secretariat will be in touch with group with any updates and will work with Chairs to apply changes to draft that have been discussed.

The Chair thanked group members for work and feedback.

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