John Swinney told monitoring of school bullies ‘vital’

John Swinney is being urged to take robust action. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

John Swinney is being urged to take robust action. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

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Human rights campaigners have urged Education Secretary John Swinney to force education authorities to monitor school bullying based on race, religion, gender or sexuality.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland has called for action to address what it describes as a “significant weakness” in Scotland’s education policy.

EHRC Scotland director Alastair Pringle is also to press the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the issue at a meeting in Geneva today.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Mr Pringle said: “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.”

He continued: “We have two concerns about this. Firstly, unless schools monitor and record such incidents they have no way of knowing if actions that they are taking to prevent identity-based bullying are successful.

“Secondly, because this data is not shared with other local partners such as the police or community safety partnerships, we have an incomplete picture of the prevalence of incidents aggravated by prejudice across the country.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott recently revealed that around 3,000 racist incidents have been reported in Scotland’s schools since 2011.

Mr Pringle said, however, that research by the EHRC, the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, LGBT Youth and Stonewall Scotland has indicated that “not all schools in Scotland have a system in place to monitor and report on incidents, and few education authorities make such data publicly available”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “All schools and local authorities should have anti-bullying policies in place. However, recording incidents of bullying and the circumstances around them is not consistent.

“Later this year we will publish an updated anti-bullying strategy that will introduce new guidance for local authorities and schools to ensure that bullying of all kinds – including prejudice-based incidents – is recorded accurately and monitored effectively.”

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