Behaviour and relationships in schools

From: Scottish Government
Published: Tue Nov 28 2023

New research published.

Thousands of head teachers, teachers and support staff have shared their views on pupil behaviour and relationships in Scotland's local authority schools.

The fifth edition of the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research (BISSR) report found staff perceived the majority of pupils to be behaving well. The report noted a deterioration in some pupil's behaviour since the last research was conducted in 2016, thought partly to have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and instances of poverty and destitution. The research also identifies a number of emerging trends in behaviour, including in-school truancy, vaping, disruptive use of mobile phones and misogyny.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth discussed the findings of the report as she chaired the third Behaviour and Relationships summit, bringing together teachers, union representatives, local authorities and other stakeholders.

The research comes as a further report by Education Scotland shows the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has had on attendance levels for some pupils.

Ms Gilruth said:

“We commissioned this research to provide us with the clearest possible picture on behaviour and relationships in schools. It builds upon my own extensive engagement with teachers, school leaders, support staff and local authority colleagues to fully understand how our pupils are interacting with each other and their teachers.

“It is clear from the responses that most teachers report good behaviour amongst pupils - this provides some important nuance to this issue and must be at the forefront of our plans to tackle the instances of disruptive behaviours. Young people must not be demonised, and poor behaviour cannot be generalised. Our young people have faced a huge amount of disruption in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has been compounded by the current cost of living crisis - this is not unique to Scotland.

“Tomorrow I will set out to Parliament our plans to engage with local authorities and schools to ensure a plan of action is taken forward to tackle instances of poor behaviour at the root as soon as possible. I plan to engage directly with young people on this matter to ensure their voices are front and centre - as well as with teachers and school staff, to ensure they are fully supported in responding to these challenges.”


Following the publication of the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research, the Scottish Advisory Group on Relationships and Behaviour in Schools will begin their consideration of the findings of the research and provide advice on proposed next steps.

The Scottish Government commissioned the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Research report (BISSR).

BISSR is a time series study established in 2006 and usually conducted every three years, bar a break during the pandemic. This edition is the first since 2016.

Further details on the Education Scotland report into attendance.

Company: Scottish Government

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