Relationships and Behaviour Summit - Approaches to relationships and behaviour in schools: 25 October 2023

Minutes from the relationships and behaviour summit on approaches to relationships and behaviour in schools on 25 October 2023

  • Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Scottish Government
  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Council for Independent Schools 
  • Association of Scottish Principal Education Psychologists 
  • Education Scotland
  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES)
  • Association of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland (AHDS)
  • Education Institute for Scotland (EIS)
  • GMB
  • National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)
  • Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Prestwick Academy, South Ayrshire 
  • Carrongrange Secondary School, Falkirk
  • St Michael’s Primary School, Glasgow
  • Craigroyston Secondary School,  Edinburgh
  • Heathfield Primary School, South Ayrshire
  • Mearns Castle Secondary School, East Ren
  • Douglas Academy, East Dumbartonshire
  • Saracen Primary School, Glasgow
  • Smithycroft Secondary School, Glasgow
  • Stonelaw Secondary School, South Lanarkshire
  • John Paul Academy, Glasgow
  • Lasswade Secondary School, Midlothian
  • SAC Curriculum Pedagogy Lead, North Lanarkshire Council
  • Pedagogy Team, Dundee City Council
  • Rossie Young People’s Trust, Tayside RIC (ASN School)
  • Meigle Primary and Kettins Primary, Perth and Kinross
  • Redhall Special Primary School, Edinburgh 
  • Gorgie Mills Special Secondary School, Edinburgh   
  • Rockfield Primary, Oban
  • Aberdeen City Council
  • City of Glasgow Council
  • Perth and Kinross Council
  • Dundee Council
  • Fife Council 
  • Clackmannanshire Council
  • Includem
  • Scottish Youth Parliament 
  • Children’s Parliament
  • Barnardos
  • National Parents Forum
  • Connect
  • Children and Young People's Centre for Justice 
  • Youth Link Scotland
  • The Promise Scotland 
  • Excluded Lives project
  • Scottish Community Safety Network (SCSN)
  • Violence Reduction Unit
  • Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS)
  • Academic, University of Strathclyde

Items and actions


The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills committed to convening a summit on relationships and behaviour in schools, in order to establish a robust evidence base, informed by practitioners, on this issue of relationships and behaviour policy in schools.  A full list of organisations represented at the event can be found above.

The summit comprises a series of themed events between June and November 2023 to enable relationships and behaviour policy to be carefully explored with partners. 

This summit focussed on the theme of relationships and behaviours in schools. The aims of the summit were: to identify the challenges and barriers to creating a safe and consistent environment in schools; and to identify practical solutions necessary to tackle these, at a school, local and national level.


The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills chaired the summit and the event comprised of two table discussion sessions.
The information from these sessions has been collated and drawn into our evidence base.

Breakout session 1: creating a safe and consistent environment in schools

Delegates were invited to participate in a group table discussion and considered the following questions:

  • What features create a safe and consistent environment in schools? 
  • What is good about the current approaches and interventions that schools can/do use to address behaviour? 
  • What challenges and barriers do schools face creating safe environments and addressing behaviour?

Feedback from the discussions has been organised into the following themes:  

Cultural/definition and understanding 

  • A shared understanding of language around behaviour and values is necessary to enable consistency in approach and to enable continuity of support. 
  • It was noted that society and circumstances have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic; it is important to understand the full context and consider the impact the pandemic has had on learning, wellbeing, relationships and behaviour.
  • The importance of embedding a rights based approach was noted.
  • It was acknowledged that Scotland’s schools have a passionate workforce who want to help children and young people – there is commitment to drive progress in this space.
  • It was remarked that an increased understanding of the basis of approaches such as restorative practice and nurture may help with the identification of the right support.

Roles and expectations

  • The importance of clarifying roles and expectations was noted, particularly when an incident occurs out of school.
  • The need to ensure collaboration with non-teaching staff was noted – engaging at the right juncture and ensuring communication during the development and implementation of plans is important.
  • It was felt that communications with parents and carers was important – avoiding stigmas and balancing targeted and universal supports.
  • Whilst it was noted that schools are essential hubs for families, the dependency on other services was noted and the impact not being able to access these has on children and families, as well as more generally managing expectations. 
  • The importance of the visibility and availability of leaders was noted.
  • It was noted there were examples of good practice, both at a school and local level, which could be shared to increase understanding.

Capacity and development of the workforce

  • The important contribution made by support staff was acknowledged – the pastoral care provided and the important relationships formed with children and young people.
  • The importance of building capacity of staff was noted – high quality professional learning and development needs to be accessible at the right time.
  • The importance of identifying and sharing good and developing practice was noted.
  • It was remarked that there is a varied landscape; language, policy and approaches. It would be helpful to provide access to training for all staff around consistency in approaches, early intervention and trauma informed practices.
  • Challenges around staff recruitment, budget and retention were noted.

Early intervention

  • There was consensus about the importance of early intervention and the need to be able to consider the specific intervention necessary to support the child– not appropriate to implement a one size fits all approach - though consistency, understanding and support is fundamental.
  • The importance of pupil voice, pastoral care and parental engagement was recognised.

Policies and procedures

  • It was acknowledged that it is fundamental for children and young people to feel included in the development of policies and procedures – early engagement is important to build trust and understanding. 

  • It was remarked that some environments are challenging and the use of mobile phones in class can be a contributing factor. 

  • It was noted that it would be beneficial to consider policies around areas such as exclusion to enable consistency in approach and understanding.

Breakout session 2:  actions required to promote positive behaviour and safe environments in schools

Delegates were asked to reflect on the challenges, barriers and opportunities in order to consider potential support and actions which may be developed. The following questions were provided for delegates to consider with a group table discussion:

  • What actions can we take at a local and national level to promote positive behaviour and tackle challenging behaviour in schools?
  • What support would be needed to enable these actions to be realised and for early identification/intervention to be possible?

Feedback from the discussions has been organised into the following themes:  

What actions can we take at a local and national level to promote positive behaviour and tackle challenging behaviour in schools?


  • It was remarked that it was important to create a caring, inclusive and equitable school community through ensuring that all policy decisions and actions are guided by a values-led and rights based approach, as well as having a whole-school approach.
  • It was noted that engagement with children and young people should be a fundamental part of any future policy/procedural development.
  • The importance of engaging, and working with, parents, guardians and carers was noted, as well as external agencies to prevent and address behavioural issues and develop meaningful plans.
  • It was felt that it was important that children come to school learning ready – having executive function, language, self-regulation skills will require working with early learning and P1/2 to support children to be ready to learn.
  • The importance of involving a range of children and young people in discussions was noted, as well as the need for explicit teaching of behaviours we want to see in schools.


  • It was acknowledged that, although improvements could be made, there are many examples of good practice already happening – this needs to be shared to support consistency and understanding. 
  • The importance of learning and development for all staff was noted – having access to support and development at the right time is crucial. It was suggested that consideration be given to initial staff training, refresher training and upskilling staff.
  • The importance of having clear, robust policies was noted – to enable consistency in application, it is crucial for roles and responsibilities to be understood, and for the workforce to be empowered to respond effectively.
  • The need to communicate and align to external agencies and services was recognised – focus on creating a sense of community and belonging to the school locally. 


  • It was suggested that consideration be given to initial teacher training to ensure behaviours in schools forms part of the package of learning, as well as important areas such as ASN.
  • It was agreed that it would be helpful to continue to make best use of collaborative opportunities (such as the behaviour summit events) to gather and explore feedback from a range of groups on this topic.
  • It was noted that it would be beneficial to consider/review/explore policies such as exclusion and mobile phones – what can also be gleamed from recording, monitoring and analysis? How are these being applied? 
  • It was suggested that consideration be given to the language used around relationships and behaviours – important to communicate why approaches are put in place, what roles and expectations are, and what support is available to staff and pupils.

What support would be needed to enable these actions to be realised and for early identification/intervention to be possible? 


  • The importance of proportionality was noted – tools and interventions should be proportionate to enable these to be applied consistently but, at the same time, reflective of the fact that not one size fits all. It was noted that bespoke support may be required for a small number of pupils with complex needs.

  • There was consensus that embedding a whole-school approach was important and engaging with agencies and other service providers was necessary to enable pupils and families to feel supported, as well as ensuring staff have the support and leadership necessary to support their wellbeing and resilience. 

  • The importance of setting expectations for everyone was noted – i.e. staff, community, children, parents and guardians. 

  • The importance of embedding the voice of children and young people in decisions was noted.


  • The importance of ensuring staff have the support required was noted – i.e. appropriate training on behaviour management, de-escalation, interventions and support for staff after incidents.
  • The benefits of focusing on the support and learning necessary to support children in early years was noted, as well as providing sufficient time and support for children in the transition years of school, and working with parents and guardians from early years.
  • The importance of being able to re-direct resources to where they are needed most was noted.
  • The importance of ensuring access to high quality professional learning for all staff was noted.


  • The importance of establishing a clear output following the conclusion of the summit process – clear recommendations which can be developed into a clear, robust action plan which responds to the challenges identified. 
  • The importance of involving children and young people in this process was noted.
  • It was noted that it would be beneficial to consider the various policies/strategies currently available in an effort to integrate and rationalise these into a streamlined approach.
  • The importance of consistency was noted – broad principals set nationally with room to be adapted to local situations.

Closing remarks

The Cabinet Secretary thanked delegates for their honest and reflective discussion and reiterated her commitment to further engagement through the summit process.

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