Preventing and responding to gender based violence: a whole school framework

This framework provides support to those working with and in schools to develop and strengthen universal and targeted approaches to gender-based violence.

Ministerial Foreword

The Scottish Government’s aim is to end all forms of gender-based violence across our society – and I am determined to see our schools leading the way.

As Cabinet Secretary, the wellbeing and safety of children and young people in our schools is of the utmost importance. Ensuring that every child is treated with respect and feels safe at school is a task I do not take lightly.

There is no place for harassment or abuse in any form in our schools, and while many of us would have hoped that gender-based violence among young people was a thing of the past, the facts unfortunately do not bear this out.

When the Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning was established in 2020, following a recommendation of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls, one of its early pieces of work was to commission reports from the Children’s and Scottish Youth Parliaments. These reports both confirmed the gender-based violence which girls and young women continue to experience in Scotland’s classrooms. In addition, the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research 2023 highlights an increase in misogynistic views and language as an emerging concern.

We know that the prevalence of some dangerously misogynistic social media personalities is having a toxic influence on some boys, with a growth in disrespect towards female teachers and classmates alike. It is vital that we counter this discrimination and act to stamp out ‘toxic masculinity’ in favour of positive masculinity.

Gender-based violence can take many forms and it is essential that everyone within a school community is supported to recognise gender-based violence when it occurs, and be equipped to respond appropriately.

However, I am clear that our aspiration should not simply be to support schools to respond to incidents of gender-based violence. Prevention and early intervention are key elements of our approach – meaning that we want to address the underlying causes of gender-based violence, particularly gender inequality.

This framework is designed to support a whole-school approach to the prevention of gender-based violence. This can be achieved through actions around school culture and ethos, school policies and systems, professional learning and development for school staff, and the curriculum. The guidance includes information on how school leadership, all school staff, families and carers, children and young people, and community partners, all have a role in preventing gender-based violence. Through this whole-school approach, everyone within a school community will be supported to take steps to prevent gender-based violence, to recognise it when it occurs, and to be confident in knowing how to report and respond when incidents happen.

Through this work, we want to see schools create cultures in which all members of the school community know that gender-based violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

It is important to recognise that school staff can also personally experience gender-based violence during the course of their work. This is particularly prescient given that women are far more likely to work in educational settings than men. This guidance therefore includes information on schools’ and local authorities’ responsibilities to their staff – and to the support available for school staff who experience gender-based violence.

This framework forms part of our broader action to address the issue of gender equality within education, including the Mentors in Violence Prevention Programme and the Gender Equality Taskforce in Education and Learning. The ambitions both complement the aims of our cross-cutting Equally Safe Strategy and our broad commitment to eradicate gender-based violence in every part of our society.

This framework was developed in collaboration with the Gender-Based Violence in Schools Working Group. I am grateful to the working group for the time and commitment shown in developing this framework, and to Rape Crisis Scotland and Zero Tolerance for co-chairing the group alongside the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to eliminating all forms of gender-based violence. I am confident that this guidance will support schools in the work they are already doing to deliver a learning environment where all children and young people are protected, cared for, and in which their rights and needs are respected.

Our goal is to eliminate gender-based violence entirely. This will all require much hard work across government, across our schools and across society to support women and girls, shift attitudes and make clear that gender-based violence will simply not be tolerated.

But it is vital that our schools are at the forefront of our approach. It is this generation of young people who can be the ones to end gender-based violence and misogyny once and for all – and it up to us to show the leadership necessary to empower them to do so.

Jenny Gilruth MSP

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills



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