Racism and Racist Incidents Subgroup - minutes: January 2022

Minutes from the group's meeting on 25 January 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Support and Wellbeing Unit, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS)
  • Scottish Anti-Racism Education (SARE)
  • CEMVO Scotland
  • Coalition For Racial Equality And Rights (CRER)
  • respectme
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)
  • Education Scotland
  • Support and Wellbeing Unit, Scottish Government (secretariat)
  • Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS)


  • Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES)
  • General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)

Items and actions

Welcome from chair

The Chair welcomed all members of the group to the fourth meeting of the workstream.

Minutes from October and November

The Chair noted that updated minutes from October and November had been circulated to members for final comments. Comments received had been incorporated in the versions shared ahead of this meeting.

SARE noted that they had further comments on both documents which they agreed to send by email to the whole group. 

It was agreed that the October and November minutes would be agreed by correspondence. 

Action: October and November minutes to be agreed by correspondence following consideration of SARE comments. 

Update on focussed discussion meeting

SG provided an overview of the outcome of the focused discussion meeting which was held on 13 January with workstream members who elected to join. The workstream was informed that the purpose of the discussion had been to agree a proposed approach to the use of the term ‘bullying’ in workstream actions. The discussion heard a range of perspectives and viewpoints, and the focused time was helpful to clarify points and perspectives.

SG will issue minutes from the focused discussion so all workstream members can see the views expressed and the conclusions reached. 

The conclusion of the focussed discussion was that there is a need for the workstream to address terminology. It was clear from the discussion that there are challenges for school staff and others in understanding the difference between incidents of racism and incidents of bullying in schools. This leads to incidents of racism being mislabelled and diluted as incidents of bullying. 

Therefore, it was agreed that the Whole School Approach on Racism and Racist Incidents (hereafter WSA) issued by this workstream will include a statement on the terminology and the differentiation of racism and bullying. The WSA will reflect the focus on racism as a separate and distinct issue. 

It was agreed that the workstream should input into the upcoming refresh of Respect for All from an anti-racist perspective. SARE asked for clarification on what will be encompassed in this review. This will again help school staff understand the difference between racism and bullying. This work will be separate to the WSA.

There was agreement that the workstream would approach the Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme Stakeholder Network Group (hereafter SNG) to seek agreement to a proposal to remove the term bullying from the title of the workstream. 

SARE advised that people of colour are clear as to why bullying shouldn’t be in this workstream and that there is a need to ensure that racism and racist incidents are clearly understood to ensure that there is not conflation within anti-bullying policies.. SARE noted that they did not agree with the action to have a statement clarifying the difference between racism and bullying within the WSA, and instead wished all mentions of ‘bullying’ to be removed entirely from all work and all outputs of this workstream. 

CEMVO noted that there had been agreement to the proposal to remove bullying from title, but that bullying would require to be mentioned in the WSA document to explain to teachers and educators to explain why it is different to racism.

respectme advised that if there was no mention of bullying, then there is a risk that schools might revert to utilising bullying guidance. There needs to be a statement to make it clear that racism is not bullying, why it is different, and why it should be treated differently. SG also advised that this was a risk. 

It was further clarified that the balance of focus within the WSA produced within this workstream will focus on anti-racist approaches rather than on bullying. The purpose of including references to bullying within the WSA would be to explain the differences between incidents of racism and bullying. Not to focus on bullying as the primary issue.

Action: To propose the removal of the term bullying from the title of the workstream at SNG. 

Terms of reference

The Chair advised that the SNG had requested return of Terms of Reference for each workstream by March 2022. Previous comments from members have been incorporated in this version. Final comments were requested from members with view to agreement. 

EIS member requested by correspondence that “anti-racism” should be added to the vision statement in place of “instead of developing positive cultures”. 

Action: ‘anti-racism’ to be added to vision statement in TOR.

SARE advised that they had a large number of comments. SARE member provided an overview of their comments on the Terms of Reference, and agreed to share full comments via correspondence with all members. 

Action: SARE to share comments on Terms of Reference via correspondence with all members.

SARE noted that their input to this workstream has been unpaid. SARE advised that they would like all members of the workstream to take on board what SARE have requested in previous meetings, and note the imbalance in the workstream between people of colour and white members. SARE further noted that children and young people of colour should be at the heart of the work. 

CRER noted their support of the opportunity for members to bring written comments. The ability to see each other’s comments is helpful for transparency and having a record of what has been said, however, need to note that written comments are more labour intensive. 

It was proposed that a shared workspace for the workstream could be established to allow workstream members to share information, to co-produce materials and comment collaboratively on documents. SG has used Objective Connect in this way with other groups successfully. It was noted that due to SG security arrangements there are specific platforms which can be used.

Action: SG to set up Objective Connect for workstream. 

Skeleton whole school approach

The Chair introduced the Skeleton WSA, noting that the order and content of the WSA will be shaped and developed by workstream members.

EIS member requested by correspondence that “anti-racism” should be added to the terminology section of the WSA. 

Action: ‘anti-racism’ to be added to terminology section of WSA. 

CRER noted that this represented a good start to the WSA. However, highlighted there is not much about preventative approaches and there is a need to think about how we shape from early years onwards. Focus on creating an environment where racism isn’t an issue.

Action: Add consideration of how to shape anti-racism from early years onwards to WSA. 

SARE advised that we cannot prevent racism, due to racism being embedded within organisational structures. We can disrupt the systems and processes, including what happens in this worksteam. 

It was noted that the Building Racial Literacy Programme is seeking to support school staff to be racially literate and effective in dealing with racism and that this should be signposted to in the WSA. 

Action: Signpost to the Building Racial Literacy Programme in the WSA.

IYS advised that it would be helpful for the WSA to have a focus on victims of racial incidents and how schools should support them, in particular around racial trauma and guidance on how to support victims. 

Action: WSA to include a focus on victims, in particular around racial trauma and guidance on how schools can support victims.

Education Scotland noted that this was a useful skeleton. Education Scotland support linking the WSA to current structures, for example Curriculum for Excellence, ethos of school, and HGIOS 4. Need to consider how workstream can utilise what schools already have in place, and link this to the WSA so that schools can see what they should be doing.

Action: Group to consider how workstream can utilise what schools already have in place, and link this to the WSA so that schools can see what they should be doing.

CEMVO advised that the section on ‘why use a WSA’ should state who is part of a school community. 

Action: WSA section on ‘why use a WSA’ should state who is part of a school community.

CEMVO noted that restorative practices are not the best way to deal with racism and are traumatising for victims. SARE also raised concerns that restorative approaches could result in victim blaming and may not be culturally responsive.

IYS advised of the importance of engaging with CYPoC throughout the development of the WSA. The Chair noted that this workstream’s actions around producing accessible guidance for CYPoC include action to engage with CYPoC as part of procurement project. Further, the SNG CYP group are also available should the workstream wish to engage with them at any point. 

Action: Workstream to engage with CYPoC throughout the development of the WSA.

It was noted that accountability should be threaded throughout the document, to show who is legally responsible for upholding anti-racism and for educators to understand the duties on them.

Action: Subsection on legal framework/duties to be added to WSA.

SARE queried who would be evaluating the framework and how it is applied in schools. The WSA has no clear indication if parents and carers voices would be taken on board by schools. 

Action: WSA must clearly state the actions to be taken following concerns about racism and racist incidents being raised by parents and carers.

Education Scotland provided an update on the Building Racial Literacy Programme, which is currently in early stages with the first cohort. 

SARE noted their previous work including Tackling Bullying In Scottish Schools Campaign, which has informed their views due to their work with individual families and CYPoC. 

IYS queried the timescales of the BLR programme and involvement of BPOC. ES confirmed that the BLR team are looking at how to do this in a rights-respecting way. The current deadlines were to allow the programme to commence this financial year. 

The Chair invited members to indicate their interest in planning and writing the content for particular areas of the WSA so that work can start once the skeleton is agreed. Members noted their interest in working on the following areas:

  • NASUWT – Role of school leadership and decolonising the curriculum
  • IYS – Children and Young People, responding to and recording incidents and evaluation
  • SARE – Parents and families
  • respectme – Terminology and statement on bullying
  • Scottish Government – Legal and policy

SARE asked if there is a budget for this work. Scottish Government confirmed that there is no budget for routine workstream work. Members are invited to contribute to drafting WSA and other outputs where possible, but if this is not possible then SG policy colleagues will draft documents and bring to the group for comment. 

SARE indicated that they are contributing their time voluntarily and are not financially compensated. 

SARE advised that the Macpherson Report should be reflected on in its entirety. It was agreed that careful consideration should be given to any reference to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry within WSA outputs. There would need to be an assurance that if specific reference is made it is done so respectfully and appropriately. SARE indicated that if further clarification is required by the Lawrence family then SARE can facilitate this.

Any other business

The Chair confirmed that a colleague from the Scottish Government Support and Wellbeing Unit will take over as Chair from the next meeting, due to the current Chair starting maternity leave.

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