Education Secretary John Swinney wants to share the “outstanding practice” at Kirkcaldy High with other schools. Addressing MSPs a week after they had heard about the Fife school’s proactive approach to bullying, he said that another school leading the way is Elgin Academy.
The Moray school had “developed a model in which the school library is, essentially, a place of inclusion, safety and welcome for anybody who perhaps feels not safe and not included”.
He added that it was “presided over by a very welcoming and supportive librarian”, with senior pupils mentoring and supporting vulnerable younger pupils.
Mr Swinney said the government was “refreshing” the national approach to anti-bullying so that the damage caused by any type of bullying is highlighted to schools.
Through its mental health strategy, the government is also reviewing personal and social education (PSE) and counselling services. Earlier this year, Tes Scotland reported a call from Breathing Space – the NHS mental health helpline in Scotland – for every school to have an onsite counsellor for staff and pupils.
Changes were required in initial teacher education at universities, said Mr Swinney, to help students recognise bullying, and schools’ records on bullying should be explored through the inspection process.
He was not yet sure, however, about how to respond to suggestions that schools are scared of recording incidents in case they acquire a reputation for bullying. There is no national approach to recording bullying and the official number of incidents can vary wildly from school to school.
Mr Swinney will issue a more detailed response on bullying after publication of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee’s inquiry report, which was due shortly after Tes Scotland went to press this week.