A number of Scotland’s local authorities have responded to criticism that they don’t collect data on homophobic bullying in schools.

11 councils across the country were identified in a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats as not holding or collating data on homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in primary or secondary schools.

The lack of data was described last week as “deeply concerning” by Stonewall Scotland and the Scottish Liberal Democrats said we need “a clear picture of the scale of bullying” if its causes are to be tackled.

Pink Saltire contacted each of the 11 local authorities listed in the document (from the total of 32 councils in Scotland) who were unable to provide council-wide figures in the FOI request and have carried their statements in full, below. Five of the eleven councils contacted, failed to provide any response including Aberdeen City Council, Stirling Council and North Lanarkshire.

Tavis ScottCommenting today, Tavish Scott MSP, said: “I have no doubt that many schools are treating the issue of homophobic bullying with the seriousness it deserves but unless we have a clear picture of the scale of the problem it is difficult to see how we can ensure that teachers get the support they need to stamp it out. Councils must work with schools to ensure that bullying is recorded properly. Building an inclusive education system is fundamental to tackling ignorance and intolerance.”

Jordan Daly cred Daily RecordFounder of the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, Jordan Daly, told us: “It’s crucial that there is a specific requirement for local authorities to record instances of homo/bi/transphobic bullying and we have called for this as a key part of a wider strategy of ensuring LGBTI inclusion within Scottish schools. It is impossible to know the extent of the issues that LGBTI youth face unless we have clear data – both qualitative and quantitative.”

He added, “A fresh systematic approach is required if we are serious about tackling this – we are clear that this does not only include properly recording instances of bullying, but also teacher training, curriculum mapping and issuing new guidance on LGBTI to all schools.”

How did your council respond:

Aberdeen-City-Council Provided no response

Argyll  Bute Logo Provided no response

clackmannanshire  A council spokesperson told us, “The council will be working with schools to achieve a more consistent approach to recording details of incidents reported under Equalities duties.”

East LothianProvided no response

East Renfrewshire A council spokesperson told us: “East Renfrewshire takes any allegations of bullying very seriously and we have a zero tolerance policy on all forms of bullying.”

“We have a very low incident rate of bullying behaviour in schools and robust policies and measures are in place to investigate and record all incidents. Individual schools record details of any individual incidents, including their context. These are monitored to ensure patterns of behaviour are recognised and measures put in place to respond accordingly.”

“Our bullying and anti-bullying policy has been commended by Respect Me on the inclusion of prejudice based bullying and is used as an example of best practice. To support this we have an Equalities Plan which particularly focusses on those deemed to have protected characteristics. We have held discussions with Stonewall and look forward to working with them in the coming months. In addition, we also hold regular equalities forums. The most recent meeting focussed on bullying and included presentations from pupils who have suffered because of their characteristics. To support this work, one of our secondary schools has also produced and shared a bullying video to highlight homophobia.”

“East Renfrewshire is committed to providing a safe, supportive environment for all and we also encourage anyone who has concerns over bullying to speak to a teacher so we can investigate any matter fully.”

Fife Council Gordon Wardrope, Education Officer within Fife’s Education and Children’s Services said: “We’ve recently completed a significant review and redesign of our strategic anti-bullying policy. The new policy was developed by a working group which included a representative of Respectme, Scotland’s national anti-bullying service. Respectme have also trained Fife Council staff to act as in-house trainers.”

He added, “Each school has a single point of contact for anti-bullying and they are all being trained in current best practice and use of a new recording and monitoring system. By the end of this year, all schools will be using this system to record bullying and equalities issues. This will give us better quality, consistent data to help us spot any trends or tackle any issues that arise.”

Midlothian-council A Midlothian Council spokeswoman said: “Through the data management system (SEEMiS) we do not collate data regarding homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in schools, but we can reassure you that at school level any reports of this type are dealt with prompty and effectively in order to ensure that no child has to endure painful verbal or physical abuse. School group managers regularly discuss any issues which arise directly with head teachers in order to provide support where necessary and continuing professional development where required.”

north-lanarkshire-council Provided no response

South-Lanarkshire-Council Tony McDaid, Head of Education at South Lanarkshire Council, said: “Our schools adopt a no tolerance approach to bullying. It is recognised that even allowing for the positive strategies which are in place, bullying can still occur. We offer valuable support to any individual who is subject to bullying and will take steps to change the behaviour which caused the bullying in the first place.”

stirling-council Provided no response

west-lothian-council-logo A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “Every school in West Lothian records and reports incidents of bullying. Bullying is taken extremely seriously in all West Lothian schools, and schools take the necessary and appropriate action to tackle each individual incident.”

“The West Lothian Council Anti-Bullying Policy is linked to the Council’s equalities policies, and schools, in developing and applying anti-bullying policies and strategies, will consider any particular needs arising from ethnicity, gender, religious belief, disability and sexual orientation.”

“Our Quality Improvement Team review issues with school staff as part of our regular monitoring process, with support given to individual schools if trends are detected.”

“Information on bullying is recorded in schools and centrally, but not in such a way as to allow easy identification of a homophobic element in bullying. Therefore we were unable to provide this information in response to a FOI request, as to collate this from eery school in West Lothian would exceed the cost set down under Section 12 of the FOI Scotland Act.”

“West Lothian Council is committed to promoting equality and diversity, and we were recently awarded the Stonewall Diversity Champion Scotland award in recognition of our continuing work in this area. The council also takes a lead role in organising the West Lothian Pride with local young people, with our Depute Chief Executive responsible for education, Elaine Cook, one of the key speakers at the event.”

Updated – since publication, Scottish Borders Council have confirmed that they do record instances of homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in schools. They had been excluded in the original data set by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Pink Saltire have now confirmed the number of instances recorded by SBC as:

2011/12 – no records for this period

2012/13 – zero incidents

2013/14 – zero incidents

2015/16 – zero incidents

Written by: Stuart Duffy for Pink Saltire

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