Preventing and responding to bullying

Effective responses to bullying lead to improved outcomes for children and young people. This resource contains evidence gathered during visits by HM Inspectors. It provides examples of good practice in preventing and responding to bullying.

Examples include case studies from schools where effective practice is improving challenges. These include improvements to:

  • individual wellbeing
  • skills development
  • problem-solving and communication
  • understanding and compassion

With these improvements, children and young people are developing confidence and resilience. This helps them to manage conflict and build respectful relationships.

The case studies can serve as a valuable model for other schools facing similar challenges. They illustrate the importance of a comprehensive and inclusive approach to school improvement.


From August 2019, schools and local authorities are expected to use the Bullying and Equalities Module (BEM) within SEEMiS. This module allows schools to record and track bullying.

HM Inspectors assessed how well this approach was working. We published the findings of the national review for recording and monitoring instances of bullying behaviour in February 2023.

The review acknowledged that staff in schools use a range of supportive approaches when dealing with children and young people in response to incidents of bullying.

However, there is a need to improve arrangements for the recording and monitoring of bullying. HM Inspectors set out several recommendations as part of the review. These included:

  1. Scottish Government should work with partners to review the functionality of the BEM within the SEEMiS system to make it more practical for schools to record and monitor incidents of bullying.
  2. Schools should work in partnership with parents, learners and staff to agree a shared definition of bullying within their school community. This will help to strengthen approaches to recording and support monitoring of alleged incidents of bullying.
  3. Schools should ensure that they have suitable arrangements in place to encourage children and young people to report, with confidence, all incidents alleged bullying.
  4. Schools must record bullying incidents accurately and monitor this information systematically. This will allow them to identify more readily the scope and scale of bullying incidents and make improvements in policy and practice to support learners' wellbeing.

To support system improvement and help schools to respond to these recommendations, HM Inspectors were asked to exemplify effective practice in how schools prevent and respond to incidents of bullying.

This resource provides details of successful approaches to responding to some of the challenges outlined in the first phase of this work.


HM Inspectors have identified five practices that contribute to creating safe and inclusive learning environments:

  1. Effective partnership working helps senior leaders to plan, deliver, monitor, and evaluate approaches.
  2. High-quality professional learning builds teacher confidence and skills in responding to bullying effectively.
  3. Whole-school universal measures and targeted approaches help to prevent bullying. 
  4. High-quality curriculum improves understanding of bullying amongst staff, pupils and other stakeholders.
  5. Involving children and young people creates a culture of collaboration and respect.