Respect for All Review Working Group minutes: March 2023

Minutes from the meeting of Respect for All Review Working Group on 16 March 2023

Attendees and apologies


  • Scottish Government – Support and Wellbeing Unit (Chair)
  • Association of Headteachers and Deputies Scotland (AHDS)
  • Education Scotland
  • Equality & Human Rights Commission
  • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
  • National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • respectme
  • Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Scottish Government – Support and Wellbeing Unit (secretariat)



Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed the members to the meeting and thanked them for attending and supporting this important work to update the national anti-bullying guidance.

The chair provided background to the review and explained that this initial meeting was to hear network members’ reflections and thoughts on how the guidance can be clarified and strengthened to help support schools and staff. SG would develop a fuller project plan for a future meeting.

Terms of Reference

SG was planning to develop a terms of reference outlining the process of the review, members’ involvement, timeline and membership.

The timeline for developing new guidance was going to be heavily influenced by the timing of key pieces of evidence to inform it, including the results of the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research and HMIe’s second phase of its thematic inspection on monitoring and recording bullying in schools. The group highlighted the substantial work that was required for the review and for the timeline to be realistic to reflect this. This would help with communication and managing expectations of stakeholders.

Members were happy with the suggestion to meet on a six week basis. A Doodle Poll after the meeting would be sent out confirm meeting dates. The next meeting would take place after the Easter break. 

Action: SG to circulate doodle poll with meeting dates for May and June meetings

It was agreed SG would draft a terms of reference for discussion/agreement at the next meeting. The chair invited any additional information members would like included in ToR.

Action: SG to draft terms of reference for next meeting

Membership and approach

It was proposed that the working group would form the core group to inform the review, but in recognition of the wider group of stakeholders with an interest in the guidance or elements of it, means would be found to engage with them appropriately. This may involve forming sub-groups of relevant stakeholders to inform the drafting of specific sections, or sharing the draft guidance at relevant stages with them to ensure as wide a range of interests as possible can be captured. This will include engaging with the LGBT inclusive working group, Racism and Racist Incidents Workstream and the Faith and Belief Stakeholder Group, for example.

There was discussion of the inclusion of equalities groups within the working group membership. Ensuring representation was considered important though it was acknowledged that it may be difficult to include representation across all equalities groups without the working group becoming very large. There was discussion about whether it was appropriate to review the guidance through a general equalities lens, with the views sought on protected characteristics through other means such as sub-groups.

The chair thanked members for their contributions and said SG would bring further proposals on membership/approach to the next meeting as part of the terms of reference.

Action: SG to provide proposals on membership and approach at the next meeting

There was discussion about how the work of the review should be communicated to ensure that people knew it was happening and likely timescales. respectme reported that almost all local authorities were soon to be updating their anti-bullying policies and it was therefore important schools and authorities are aware that this work is in the pipeline.

It was considered helpful to use the opportunity of anti-bullying week in November 2023 either to promote the work of the review, or to engage/consult with stakeholders. It was suggested this could include engaging with children and young people.

Action: SG to consider communication, particularly around anti-bullying week, as part of the project plan

HMIe thematic inspection on recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools

The thematic inspection on recording and monitoring incidents on bullying in schools, published by Education Scotland on 23 February had been circulated to the group in advance of the meeting.

The chair explained that the report shows that staff across schools are committed to promoting positive relationships within an inclusive environment and seek to prevent and address bullying. Schools which have systematic approaches to monitoring report a reduction in incidents of bullying, and are using the data they collect to drive improvement. However, the report also highlighted challenges, including difficulties in navigating the SEEMiS system, the length time required to complete the recording and updating of incidents, the potential for duplication, a lack of flexibility to detail incidents and actions taken to support those involved, and the ability to monitor specific issues, trends and other patterns, restricting proactive responses. Schools also reported difficulties in agreeing a shared definition of bullying with their stakeholders and suggested the current national definition is open to interpretation and does not support them to identify which behaviours are bullying.

The chair highlighted action SG was taking in response to the findings, including commencing this review, engaging with SEEMiS and the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS). HM Inspectors were also going to undertake a second phase of the thematic inspection looking at good practice in how schools are responding to bullying.

The chair invited reflections from members on the report and its implications for the guidance update.

There was discussion of the reported challenges with SEEMiS. Some members agreed with the finding regarding usability, though others noted it was the investigation that took time rather than the recording. SG were meeting SEEMiS shortly to discuss the issues raised within the report, to build understanding of whether issues could be resolved by more guidance or whether changes to the system might be required.

Concern was expressed about the recommendation that schools develop their own definitions of bullying. The group agreed retaining a national definition was more appropriate and that it was important to communicate that the group was looking at this element of the guidance.

There was discussion around parental expectations of how schools would deal with bullying, including incidents that took place outwith school grounds. There was also felt to be some uncertainty amongst parents and schools of whether all reports of bullying should be recorded or only those that could be verified. It was noted it was often difficult for parents to find school or local authority anti-bullying policies, and that these policies could differ from area to area. Work was being done in some local authorities to provide clearer information for parents.

Respect for All discussion paper

respectme provided an overview of a thought paper, based on their experiencing of engaging directly with schools and local authorities, on areas where they thought the guidance needed updated.

The group agreed the areas highlighted in the thought paper were priorities for review. In particular there was discussion around more awareness of trauma, links between poverty and bullying, sensitivities around language, and the need to draw greater distinctions between bullying and hate crime and bullying and violence.

There was discussion around engagement, and whether there might be opportunity for joint meetings with other working groups considering relevant topics, or the potential to hold some form of summit to engage with stakeholders.

The chair agreed the above comments and ideas would be integrated into a proposed project plan and will be discussed more fully at the next meeting in about six weeks.


There were no items raised under AOB. The chair closed the meeting and confirmed the date for the next meeting would be circulated in due course.

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