Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools minutes: May 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 11 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jenny Gilruth MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Chair)
  • Association of Headteachers and Deputies Scotland (AHDS)
  • Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists (ASPEP)
  • Education Scotland
  • Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS)
  • National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS)
  • respectme
  • School Leaders Scotland (SLS)
  • Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA)
  • Education Analytical Services, Scottish Government
  • Support and Wellbeing Unit,  Scottish Government (Secretariat)


  • Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES)

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and minutes from previous meeting

The chair welcomed attendees and noted apologies.

The chair introduced Councillor Buchanan, COSLA’s spokesperson for children and young people, to his first SAGRABIS meeting.

The minutes from the previous meeting, held on 7 December, were issued for information. These were agreed via email at the time and have been published on the Scottish Government (SG) website. The chair clarified the status of the actions from the meeting.

Thematic inspection on recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools

In 2019, the SG introduced a consistent national approach to recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools. This approach was developed in collaboration with SAGRABIS. SG commissioned HMIe to carry out a thematic inspection on how successfully the new approach had been implemented, which was published in February 2023. Education Scotland provided an overview of the findings of the evaluation and outlined Education Scotland’s next steps.

During the review, HMIe looked at all 32 local authorities and how schools responded to incidents within schools.

Key findings of the report:

  • there is inconsistency around monitoring of incidents across Scotland
  • two thirds of schools are fully implementing the national guidance and using the agreed approach within schools
  • some schools have created an alternative system running in parallel to the national approach, or as an alternative to it, to meet their needs
  • a third of schools have no system to monitor bullying in schools

The report made recommendations that: 

  • the functionality of the Bullying and Equalities Module should be reviewed to make it more practical for schools to record
  • school communities should work to develop a shared definition of bullying
  • schools should ensure they have suitable arrangements in place to encourage reporting of incidents
  • schools should record bullying more accurately and monitor it systematically

HMIe was undertaking a second phase of the thematic review, looking at good practice on recording and monitoring bullying. As part of this review, 25 schools were being visited and a report was expected to be published in autumn 2023.

Members expressed their concern that a third of schools had no system being used to monitor bullying, meaning issues may not be being identified. There was also discussion of culture around recording, with some schools being reluctant to record incidents as soon as they were reported. The challenges around incidents occurring outwith school hours and premises was also highlighted.  

The Support and Wellbeing Team provided an overview of the SG’s response to the report:

  • SG had begun the review of Respect for All, which will utilise the expertise of key stakeholders to consider what updates are required to the guidance to support schools in responding to the concerns and recommendations identified in the report. The group met for the first time on 16 March and will meet again on 17 May
  • as highlighted, HM Inspectors will undertake a second phase of the thematic inspection which will inform SG’s future work
  • SG was engaging with the Teachers Panel and SAGRABIS on the findings and next steps required to further improve our approach to recording and monitoring bullying incidents in schools
  • SG was discussing the report with SEEMiS
  • evidence was being gathered that will help to better understand the extent of bullying and other behaviour at a national level through BISSR and through the Health and Wellbeing Census

Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research (BISSR) update

At the last meeting in December, researchers from ScotCen Social Research who are conducting the BISSR research attended to give SAGRABIS members an overview of the research methodology and timetable. A short update paper from the researchers was circulated in advance of the meeting, giving an update on progress made to date, next steps, and future timings and milestones.

Education Analytical Services provided an overview of the paper and confirmed a further update on BISSR would be provided at the next meeting.

Open discussion on the future priorities of SAGRABIS

The Chair acknowledged that there has been a rise in concerns around behaviour and violence in schools since COVID-19. The Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research will help to understand that in more detail and allow the SG to respond appropriately. Following each iteration of the research to date, SAGRABIS has considered the actions which should be taken, collectively, to address the concerns raised, and this has informed the development of joint published guidance and actions in response. The Chair acknowledged that this will take some time.

The Chair confirmed the SG are aiming for two further SAGRABIS meetings, to coincide with key milestones with BISSR and the second phase of the thematic inspection so that they can seek appropriate input from group members.

The Chair welcomed an open discussion from SAGRABIS members on the role of the group. Some points SAGRABIS members raised:

  • collectively need to look at short and long term actions to tackle behaviour issues
  • was there potential for national guidance on using pupil behaviour risk assessments as part of GIRFEC
  • there could be too much focus on recording behaviour rather than outcomes
  • the tools available to teachers and schools to manage behaviour were there, but lack of time could cause challenges in implementing these
  • behaviour was impacting on teachers’ workload and own mental health. There shouldn’t be a blame culture targeted at teachers who were dealing with challenging circumstances
  • primary schools don’t have pastoral care teachers when compared to secondary and how might that impact on the support given to the most vulnerable children at a primary level
  • there was frustration within non-teaching staff not being involved in meetings to discuss plans to support a child, as they might have ideas of what would work better for the child
  • there may be benefit in hosting a national summit around behaviour issues to bring in a range of organisations to advance this work


  • SG to consider with COSLA potential for pupil behaviour risk assessment guidance
  • SG to consider suggestion to hold a national summit on behaviour

Any other business

respectme shared a link to an interactive free online anti-bullying training for adults to help prevent and respond to bullying behaviour,

No other business was raised.

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