Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme - Stakeholder Network Group minutes June 2021: racist incidents and racist bullying workstream

Paper for meeting of working group on 23 June 2021.


Previous engagement with the Stakeholder Network Group has highlighted concerns around the way that racist behaviour is recognised, addressed and recorded in schools, including the lack of feedback and/or resolution. The SNG noted that there can be a lack of clarity and protocol in schools which means that handling comes down to local leadership and teachers in the school, and whether they interpret behaviour to be racist or not. This can result in young minority ethnic people having low confidence in reporting incidents of racism or racist bullying.

How incidents are handled is just as important as any monitoring and recording procedure. It is important to give schools and practitioners the tools and resources that they need to support children and young people, and to give practitioners confidence in dealing with incidents of racism and racist bullying.

The culture and ethos of a school is fundamental to addressing incidents of racism and racist bullying as they arise but also contributing to prevention and ensuring these incidents do not take place in the first place. The culture and ethos of a school sets the values that everyone in a school needs to adhere to through the systems put in place as well as the structure of a school environment both in terms of prevention and responding to all incidents of racism and racist bullying. Culture and ethos can establish that racism and racist bullying has no place and that any incidents will not be tolerated. Culture and ethos of a school should be driven by the needs of the learners, as well as the staff, and a shared aim of making a school the best place to be for everyone, to support learning and employment. Local leadership needs to be empowered to set clear expectations about how incidents of racism and racist bullying should be recorded and handled, both to identify areas of recurrence and also to effectively address issues when they arise.

It is vital that local leadership also sets out clear expectations too about the preventative strategies in place to address these issues. Building an environment where racial stereotypes, prejudice-based views, and racist bullying, are challenged constructively by everyone supports a community of learners where all members are valued and supported. This also helps to build the positive relationships and collective resilience needed to prevent racist incidents and racist bullying behaviour from occurring.

Black and Ethnic Minority young people have called for step-by-step guides for teachers and learners and highlighted the need to ensure that anti-racism is embedded within a whole-school approach. This workstream therefore aims to support the social footprint of young people to effect change, and to support children and young people to be responsible citizens and effective contributors to society. This work aims to effect societal change that leads to improved quality of life for all young people in Scottish schools.

Vision for change

The Scottish Government Race Equality framework has identified the following goal: ‘Minority ethnic pupils have confidence in, and are effectively supported by, approaches in schools to prevent and respond to prejudice-based bullying and racist behaviour or incidents’.

The vision for this workstream is:

  • ‘partners aim to embed a culture of positive systemic and preventative action, developed in collaboration with young people, to address incidents of racism and racist bullying in schools through the provision of guidance, effective practice, and recording and monitoring, that supports and evaluates action to prevent and respond to racism and racist bullying in schools’

Current picture

Education Scotland’s National Improvement Hub contains advice on anti-racist education in schools, which aims to build a school environment which actively promotes equality and tackles racism. Promoting race equality and anti-racist education | Learning resources | National Improvement Hub. Education Scotland also offer a Race Equality Education wakelet, which signposts educators to a range of websites and resources which promote race equality education Race Equality Education - Wakelet.

It is recognised that inspection can play an important role in identifying areas for improvement, supporting local authorities and establishments in driving change and strengthening existing approaches. As part of their annual inspection programme on delivery of education in schools, Education Scotland Inspectors explore how schools / settings record and review incidents of bullying. In particular, they look at any underlying prejudice including details of any protected characteristic(s) that would include race. They also explore how well schools / settings gather information on any underlying prejudice including details related to any protected characteristic(s). In advance of an inspection, the Education Scotland inspection team will issue pre-inspection questionnaires which allow Inspectors to gather the views of parents, staff, learners and partners. This includes whether learners are treated fairly, with some explicit references to bullying. This then helps to inform Inspectors approach when inspecting a school / setting.

How Good Is Our School 4 (HGIOS4) How good is our school? (4th edition) (education.gov.scot), sets out that highly-effective practice in schools will enable children and young people to be knowledgeable about equalities and inclusion and feel able to challenge discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance when they come across it.

It is recognised that practitioner understanding of what defines racism and racist bullying is extremely important. Recording and monitoring alone will not deliver change or improvements to school life for school staff and learners, they will highlight where action is needed, but it is vitally important that we provide school staff with the tools and skills they need to respond and deliver change. In parallel, it is vitally important that learners are given the confidence that action will be taken and that clear routes to deliver the required action is widely known and understood. This will support the embedment of an ethos and culture that there is no place for racism or racist bullying within a school. A significant amount of work has already been undertaken, but it is widely accepted and recognised that more needs to be done to support school staff and learners.

Racist bullying

Respect for All: The National Approach to anti-bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People Respect for All: national approach to anti-bullying was published in November 2017. The approach provides a holistic approach to anti-bullying which makes clear that all types of bullying are unacceptable and that bullying is a much broader issue and not just the responsibility of schools - but all adults involved in the lives of children and young people who have a role in preventing and responding to bullying. Respect for All also strengthens the messages on prejudice-based bullying, online/offline bullying, labelling and impact and outcomes of bullying. It also identifies activities not considered to be bullying (ranging from playground fallouts to hate crime). Respect for All will be reviewed in 2022-23 to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of practitioners who work with children and young people.

A new national approach to recording and monitoring bullying has been in place since August 2019. Schools use SEEMiS, an information management system, to record incidents of bullying. The list of characteristics that can be reported on within SEEMiS includes bullying based on race and religion. All schools and local authorities were expected to be using the new approach from August 2019, and an evaluation will be undertaken by Education Scotland Inspectors in 2021/22 to assess how successfully the new system has been embedded. The evaluation will inform consideration of whether a mandatory requirement for schools to record all incidents is required.

Alongside the new approach to recording and monitoring of bullying, the Scottish Government funded the Coalition of Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) to develop a resource for schools on racist bullying, which was written to complement Respect For All, the national approach to anti-bullying. The resource “Addressing Inclusion: effectively challenging racism in schools” provides information and guidance to school staff on addressing racist bullying in Scottish schools and was published in 2019.

CRER have recently produced a report following a Freedom of Information request to local authorities in Spring 2021. The FOI related to the collation of bullying and racist incidents data by Local Authorities for academic year 2019/20. 

Following CRER’s analysis of FOI responses, the report stated that there was a low rate of use of the SEEMiS Bullying and Equalities module by schools. Implying that in 2019-20 the level of data collection was not sufficient to inform policy at national or local authority levels.

Scottish Government has also commenced work with Respectme to investigate how current learning on prejudice-based bullying could be strengthened, in collaboration with key anti-racism organisations.

Racist incidents

The SNP manifesto included a commitment to ‘improve the reporting and publication of data on racist incidents in schools’. As highlighted above, recording and monitoring of bullying, including racist or religious bullying has been in place since 2019.

Previous engagement with the SNG has shown that racist incidents and racist bullying should be considered separately and that there should be specific processes in place to deal with both of these types of racism.

A module is currently available on SEEMiS to record incidents of racism separately to racist bullying. However, it was identified that further work was required to fully understand how schools and local authorities were recording racist incidents. It is accepted that uniform and consistent recording and monitoring can support education setting to identify recurring patterns and inform targeted preventative and responsive actions to support young people and staff.

Survey of local authorities

In May 2021, COSLA and Scottish Government carried out a survey of local authorities to build a picture of how racist incidents are currently recorded and monitored in schools. The survey focused on how incidents are recorded and what challenges are faced when recording/monitoring, rather than asking about number or frequency of incidents.

23 local authorities responded to the survey. An overview of survey responses is included at Annex A.

The survey showed that each local authority who responded to the survey is already taking steps to ensure that incidents of racism are recorded and monitored, and several are currently considering ways to improve their recording.

However, the survey has also shown some of the challenges which local authorities and schools have identified. More work is needed to ensure that local authorities are encouraging schools to take a consistent approach to identifying and recording all racist incidents, and that school staff are confident both in dealing with incidents when they arise and in using the SEEMiS modules to their full functionality.

This survey will help inform future action which address the challenges identified through the survey, using the drivers and actions listed below.

Workstream drivers

We have identified the following six drivers of work in this workstream, which will organise our actions.


Values based leadership is essential in implementing whole school approaches to addressing incidents of racism and racist bullying where they occur, and in ensuring that schools use educational resources to build positive environments where racial stereotypes and prejudice-based views can be challenged constructively by everyone.

This also links to the actions taken in other workstreams, to ensure a co-ordinated approach.


This driver recognises the need for practical resources for school staff, which give them the tools to support children and young people and to respond to incidents in a consistent and appropriate way.

Curriculum delivery

This driver will consider how to strengthen anti-racist bullying education through Personal and Social Education/ Health and Wellbeing, with links to the other workstream on anti-racist education.

Professional learning

Professional learning is vital in providing school staff with the knowledge and confidence to address racist incidents and racist bullying when it arises, and to appropriately support children and young people who experience either of these behaviours. Professional learning will complement the provision of resources and guidance from the other drivers.

Voice of young people

It is vitally important that young people are engaged and consulted as part of a school’s and local authorities approach to address racism and racist bullying. It is vital that young people of colour are included, engaged and involved in this process to ensure that young people with lived experience of racism or racist bullying can inform improvement in a school and inform the ethos and culture in a school environment.

Communication and engagement

Clear communication and engagement to local authorities and schools is required to help ensure that the system understands what is required in relation to preventing and responding to all incidents of racism and racist bullying.


We have identified the following actions under the drivers.


Short Term Action:

  • review the existing professional learning available to school leaders to respond to incidents of racism and racist bullying. (SG/ Education Scotland): by August 2021

Long term action:

  • collation and publication of effective practice underway in schools and LAs that embed anti-racism practices in schools (SG / COSLA / Education Scotland): end of 2021
  • develop approaches to respond to any gaps identified in the review of existing professional learning. (SG / Education Scotland by August 2022)
  • develop a Whole School Approach to embed anti-racism into the school environment, providing practical measures, approaches and professional learning opportunities for leaders and school staff (Sub-group by Spring 2022)


Short term actions:

  • review of LA / school recording of racist incidents in schools (SG / COSLA): end July 2021
  • guidance to support schools to respond to incidents of racism (IYS project): end August 2021

Long term action:

  • review of the national approach for recording and monitoring bullying in schools, incorporating learning from short-term Guidance actions (SG / Education Scotland): end December 2021
  • development of a universal national approach for recording and monitoring racist incidents in schools. (Sub group by Summer 2022) 

Curriculum delivery

Short term actions:

  • review successful models of parental engagement in relation to approaches to prevent and respond to racism and racist bullying in PSE / Health and Wellbeing education. (sub group by October 2021)
  • development of age and stage appropriate lesson plans that enable delivery of anti-racist and anti-racist bullying education and learning, drawing on Scottish and UK examples of good practice. (sub group – by December 2021)
  • effective practice guidance for schools on how to engage young people, including young people from BAME backgrounds, in the development and delivery of anti-racist education in PSE / health and wellbeing lessons. (sub group by December 2021)

Long term actions:

  • role of parents and carers – investigate successful models of parental engagement and work with key local partners to deliver materials for parents and carers on how they can support anti-racist education (SG by summer 2022)

Professional learning

Short term action:

  • review of what anti-racism learning is currently available to all school staff, both through Education Scotland and third sector organisations. (sub group by September 2021)

Long term action:

  • development of a basic awareness learning resource to complement guidance and lesson plans (similar to the MH online resource): (sub group by Summer 2022)

Voice of young people

Short term action:

  • working with young people representative organisations, provide effective practice resources for schools and local authorities on how to engage with young people on anti-racism and racist bullying approaches. (sub group by October 2021)

Long term action

  • working with young people representative organisations, consult with young people on their view on how local authorities and schools respond to incidents of racism and racist bullying, including what they would like to see improve (sub group by spring 2022)

Communication and engagement

Short term action:

  • development of a clear guide for schools on their responsibilities in relation to preventing and responding to racism and racist bullying, including the appropriate recording and monitoring system to use (SG / Education Scotland by September 2021)

Long term action:

  • development and publication of a single resource which brings together all of the outputs from this workstream, and links to the outputs from other workstreams, and ensure that this is communicated to local authorities and schools directly. (SG / Education Scotland / COSLA by August 2022)


The summary of the current picture and the existing approaches to record and monitor show that there is a degree of support and guidance available to schools to respond to incidents of racism and racist bullying. However, it does show that further work is required to strengthen schools’ approaches to support children and young people experiencing racism and racist bullying. In particular, in respect of the provision of clear guidance on how to record racist incidents and what actions should be taken to support children and young people and educate the perpetrators of racist language and behaviour. The SNG subgroup will play a key role in this work which will improve experiences for children and young people in Scotland’s schools.


It would be helpful to have the SNG’s views on the following:

  • do you agree with the vision for this workstream?
  • do you agree with the suggested actions to strengthen and improve the approach to addressing incidents of racism and racist bullying in schools? 
  • is there anything missing from the list of suggested actions?
  • do the timescales seem sensible and achievable?
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