News and events

Our response to the Behaviour in Scottish Schools: Research Report 2023 and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills' ministerial statement on behaviour in Scottish schools 29/11/23 

We’re pleased the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and the Behaviour in Scottish Schools: Research Report 2023 acknowledge misogyny as a key issue in our schools which they commit to tackling. This report affirms what other research has found: sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence are problems in schools in Scotland. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government on the announced National Action Plan to tackle this issue. 

The Gender-Based Violence in Schools Framework is an excellent starting point for this work; however - as a non-statutory guidance document it will not alone solve the problem of violence and misogyny in schools. We therefore look to the Action Plan to provide solutions to harmful masculinity, misogyny and violence against girls, and provide guidance on accountability and consequences for those causing harm which realise survivors’ rights. We are happy to support the Scottish Government by providing Zero Tolerance’s 30-years of expertise on preventing violence against women and girls as they develop this work. 

“Girls urgently need the Scottish Government to protect their right to safety and freedom from harm. Boy’s violence against girls is flourishing in schools and current approaches are not working. We’re eager to work with the government on this issue so both teachers and children can focus on learning.” — Laura Tomson, Co-director Zero Tolerance   

We have five asks of the Scottish Government: 

Include girls in the National Action Plan 

We are glad to hear the Cabinet Secretary, Jenny Gilruth, state that the National Action Plan will include pupils. We are disappointed that children and young people were excluded from the Behaviour in Scottish Schools research. Girls experience misogyny and violence from boys at school, which affects their ability to focus on learning. To end misogyny and boy’s violence in schools, we must listen to girls’ experiences to accurately understand the problem, and work with them directly on solutions. 

Tackle the root cause 

The Cabinet Secretary is correct in her assertion that neither the pandemic nor extremist misogynistic social media influencers are causes, but rather, exacerbate boys' violence and misogyny. It is crucial that work to eliminate these issues focuses on tackling the root cause of gender inequality and the gender stereotypes and unhealthy masculinities that underpin it.  

By focusing on improving gender equality in schools, we can tackle misogyny and other forms of violence, educational attainment, truancy, bullying, and absence. 

Provide detailed guidance on restorative approaches to boys’ violence against girls 

To be effective, the action plan must provide procedures for restorative approaches to boy’s violence against girls. We agree with the concerns raised by teachers in the research, which were echoed at the summit, questioning the effectiveness of restorative approaches due to a lack of support to ensure accountability is part of the process.  

We know these approaches can be effective, but without accountability and consequences, restorative approaches to boys’ violence against girls re-traumatises survivors, tells them they don’t matter, and effectively gives boys permission to repeat their behaviour. Restorative approaches need resources, expertise, and understanding of gendered power, which currently goes beyond what teachers can provide. Teachers urgently need guidance on this. 

Gather disaggregated data 

To monitor misogyny in schools and evaluate the effectiveness of the National Action Plan, it is vital that future research measures women teachers’ and girls’ experiences of violence and misogyny. The research must further disaggregate types of violence to help us understand its gendered element. For example, ‘verbal abuse’ and ‘physical violence’ must be broken down into categories such as misogyny, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. The Scottish Government must also gather equalities demographic data to understand how diverse communities of people with protected characteristics experience violence.  

Reconvene and Resource the Gender Equality Taskforce 

In addition to the national action plan, we ask the Scottish Government to reconvene and properly resource the Gender Equality Taskforce on Education and Learning, which is supposed to be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. This has not met formally since August 2022 and has failed to make any significant progress since its inception in 2019. The issue of boys’ violence against girls and misogyny in schools makes it clear that this taskforce is needed. We hope to see the Taskforce’s work integrated with the Education Reform process, which creates a unique opportunity for transformational change in Scottish education, so that we can get it right for every child, including girls.  

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