Safe Places

What can we do to make school a safe place?

The children and young people were asked to consider what we can do to make school a safe place. While some of the contributors said that school was generally a place they did feel safe, for others feeling unsafe and experiencing violence, threats or harassment is also a reality. Nine of the participating projects responded.

Children and young people shared personal experiences. Here we present an overall picture of what young people told us separated into 4 parts as follows:

In pulling together the views of children and young people we use a number of pieces of text or art work which they have sent. To see more artworks and larger versions please go to the Groups Taking Part pages.


Places within the school where young people feel safe and don’t feel safe

Particular places are identified as unsafe. These include:

Changing rooms, when unsupervised, were seen as unsafe places.

When in school, some children and young people find the very experience of being in a busy environment difficult to manage. Contributors highlighted that the very experience of being in a group was stressful.

One young person said: “I feel generally people feel safer outside school than inside school”. Crannog Central/secondary pupil

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People who play a role in making schools safe

Teachers and ancillary staff, including janitors/caretakers and kitchen staff, were central to the descriptions of a safer school given by contributors.

By far the clearest message from young people is that they only feel safe when there is adult supervision. The group of primary pupils from Quarriers Quest said in their poster about safe places that a safe place is “anywhere there are teachers or adults around”.

Having someone to talk to, and be heard by, is identified by children and young people as an essential element of the safe school, they identified the need to be taken seriously when they tell an adult something.

Another strategy is to stick with friends, in groups. There was a suggestion from some young people that adult supervision should be discreet, but for most the presence of an adult equalled safety. Some of the contributors identified very specific places, very close to adults, as the safest places. This included the adult supervision that was available outside the secretary’s office and in the head teacher’s office, as well as in the school library.

For some children and young people a member of the school’s management team – head teacher, head of guidance – were those with whom a good individual relationship had been built. For young people at Right Track Guidance staff and prefects were identified as being people who could help schools feel safer.

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Fighting and bullying particularly make young people anxious

In particular, children and young people were anxious about fighting and bullying. As one young person identified “Bullying is one of the things that makes school unsafe”

In one group discussion (Crannog West) about strategies to tackle bullying the young people recognised that asking for help was the “most sensible” course of action, but they felt this rarely got results and so suggested the best thing to do was “to hit the bully as this was the only way to stop them”.

Children and young people also talked about bullying they had perpetuated themselves, as one young man in S3 (Canonmills/Cairnpark) stated: “I was a bully so people were frightened of me, bullying is one of the man things that makes school unsafe.” There were also worries about the carrying of weapons in the school environment.

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Strategies within school that can make the experience of schooling safer

The children and young people identified a number of strategies, some already in place, and others that might help promote school safety:

Responses to bullying played a part in discussion in one group (Canonmills/Cairnpark).

The young people talked about the lack of effective intervention by teachers, and a sense of having to fight back yourself to stop a bully.

There was a desire to have bullies “ken what it feels like” (S4 boy) and that bullies be excluded. But there was also some recognition that “someone should work one to one with bullies, some bullies have been battered by their mum and dad so a package of work needs to be done but still not come back”. (S4 boy)

In reading young people’s contributions there is little sense of the role pupils have in making schools safer. This could be interpreted as a lack of insight into issues of personal responsibility. It could also be interpreted as a realistic evaluation of the experience of having no power to make a difference.

There were a few pupils who thought they could make a difference. One young man in the Right Track group stated in his poster: “If you see someone getting bullied go over to them and tell the bully to stop it”. Another young man in this group stated: “Care for each other”. However this was rare.

What does emerge from contributions is the request that adults need to listen to young people and respond once they have listened.

One young person (Crannog Central/secondary pupil) said about school: “I don’t think you can make them safer. Young people need to be listened to more and taken seriously when they tell you something”. The young person continued: “There’s too much time spent on paperwork instead of dealing with issues”.

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