EHRC Scotland raises identity based bullying in Scottish schools with UN

Published: 04 Aug 2016

The Director of EHRC Scotland, Alastair Pringle, is leading the UK delegation of national human rights institutions giving evidence to the UN in Geneva on Thursday (to the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination). As part of his evidence, he will call for the Scottish Government to implement reporting of identity based bullying in all Scottish schools.

The problem of identity based bullying in Scottish schools is not a new one. Evidence suggests that bullying and harassment – whether it is based on a pupil’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, disability, faith or other protected characteristic – can lead to poorer attainment and attendance for pupils affected.

Currently there is no requirement for schools or Education Authorities in Scotland to monitor or report on identity based bullying in schools. We believe that this is a significant weakness in education policy and we are calling for this to become a requirement placed on every Education Authority in Scotland. In Geneva this week we will call for the Scottish Government to:

  • ensure Scottish schools collect qualitative and quantitative data on identity-based bullying across all the protected characteristics
  • use this information to inform strategies to protect victims
  • share this data with other agencies involved in reducing prejudice based bullying.

Alastair Pringle, Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland said:

“Last week the UK government committed to a review of incident reporting as part of their Hate Crime Action Plan 2016 prompted by reports of increased racism following the EU referendum. Whilst we are pleased to note that Scotland has not had a similar rise in (reported) racism we are concerned that there is a major evidence gap in Scotland – schools – which prevents us from gaining a full picture of racist incidents, and our efforts to reduce them.

"Unless schools monitor and record such incidents they have no way of knowing whether actions that they are taking to prevent identity based bullying are successful. We know from Police data that 50% of racially motivated incidents are carried out by persons under 20, and 50% of those by under 16 year olds. It seems reasonable to expect that such behaviour will be exhibited both inside and outside school but currently there is no requirement on the school, or education authority, to gather or share any information about this with partner agencies.

"This week Tavish Scott MSP published research showing that 3,000 racist incidents have been recorded in Scottish schools over the past 5 years. However there are significant gaps in this data and our own research and that of others suggests that under reporting is a significant issue and not all Scottish schools have adequate reporting systems in place.

"At Geneva this week we will therefore be calling for improvements in the recording and reporting of all forms of identity based bullying in all schools.”

Notes to editors

For more press information and interviews contact Sarah Thoms on 0141 228 5974, out of office hours 07854 193592.

The full text of the recommendation in Geneva

The Equality and Human Rights Commission recommends that the Committee ask the UK government, Scottish government and Welsh government to:

  • require schools in England, Scotland and Wales to collect qualitative and quantitative data on identity-based bullying across all the protected characteristics; and school exclusions and absences, disaggregated for all ethnic groups, and use the data to develop strategies to protect pupils
  • take action and publish progress on addressing persistent issues experienced by Gypsy/Roma, Irish Traveller, Scottish Gypsy Traveller, ethnic minority and poorer children (in receipt of free school meals), including bullying, disproportionalities in exclusion, absences and attainment rates at all key stages.

Press contact details

For more press information contact the Commission's media office on:

0161 829 8102

07767 272 818 (out of hours)