Commission publishes research into prejudice-based bullying in schools in Scotland

Published: 18 Mar 2015

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has today published new research into the scale and impact of prejudice-based bullying in Scottish secondary schools. The research, based on findings from 1,250 pupils and 330 teachers, concludes that procedures for supporting pupils being bullied could be improved.

One in four of the pupils surveyed said that they were aware of peers in their school experiencing prejudice-based bullying, while just over half of pupils who had themselves experienced bullying said they had reported it to their school.  The most commonly experienced forms of prejudice-based bullying included race, disability, sexual orientation and perceived socio-economic status.

Speaking today, Alastair Pringle, Director of the EHRC in Scotland said:

"Bullying is much more complex than playground name-calling. Most strikingly our research measured the experience gaps between pupils who had been bullied and those who hadn’t. Pupils who had been bullied were 20% less likely to report feeling safe at school, or that they felt supported, respected, included or simply happy.

"We know that if left unchallenged these experiences can lead to poor attendance and attainment and physical and mental health problems."

The research, which was conducted by LGBT Youth Scotland and Scotland's anti-bullying service respectme, also looked at the extent to which Local Authorities have policies in place to respond to incidents of prejudice-based bullying. 26 Local Authorities’ policies said that they recorded each incident, but only 14 Local Authorities could provide evidence of how such reports were being monitored.

The report makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving responses to the issue. These include: schools having clear statements about refusing to tolerate all forms of bullying, better recording and monitoring, and for Education Scotland to include questions about prejudice-based bullying in their inspections.

The report also contains three case studies of positive practice identified during the research. These include Scottish Border Council’s approach to pupil engagement, Edinburgh Council’s work on prevention and awareness rising, and Angus Council’s approach to monitoring.

Alastair Pringle added:

"The report shows a patchy response to prejudice-based bullying across Scotland, with some teachers lacking confidence in how to respond appropriately. Given the impact on young people’s education and health, we shouldn’t be leaving this to chance."


Notes to editors

  1. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006. It operates as an independent body to protect and promote equality and human rights in Great Britain. It aims to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. It encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and is accredited by the UN as an ‘A status’ National Human Rights Institution.
  2. Prejudice-based bullying in Scottish schools was written by Brandi Lee Lough Dennell and Caitlin Logan of LGBT Youth Scotland for the Equality & Human Rights Commission in Scotland. The report was produced in partnership with respectme, Scotland’s national anti-bullying agency.
  3. The report is informed by a literature review and contains analysis of local and national policy, responses on practice from Education Authorities, and surveys and focus group discussions with teachers and pupils across Scotland.

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