In recent weeks, The Southern Reporter has published stories of bullying at Galashiels Academy, with two case studies being highlighted.
Each time we asked the local authority for comment, we received a statement which noted that the council takes bullying “extremely seriously”, and that it takes “appropriate action where necessary, including involving Police Scotland as required.”
However, the statement also added that “there is no evidence of systemic bullying in the Scottish Borders as a whole, or in any particular school.”
The reaction to these two stories on social media led us to believe the issue was worse than the council was admitting, so we asked for figures.
After a lengthy wait, the council did come back with the numbers of reported incidents of bullying, between August 2021 and February 2022. It does not make for easy reading for parents, and it casts into question the council's stance that there is no evidence of systemic bullying.
In those seven months, there were no less than 121 reported incidents across all nine schools, with Earlston the highest at 23.
Peebles was second with 21, and Galashiels next with 19 incidents. Selkirk and Berwickshire both saw 14 recorded incidents, Eyemouth 12, and Hawick and Kelso 7, while Jedburgh’s new Grammar Campus showed only four.
We also asked the council how many incidents would it take for the council to believe there was evidence of systemic bullying, and how many pupils had been excluded following investigations into the incidents, but it has not as yet divulged this information.
A spokesperson for the council did add: “Recording of incidents of bullying in SBC schools is based on the Scottish Government guidance document Respect for All.
“Recording is one part of the overall process in preventing and managing bullying incidents which also involves ensuring appropriate support is put in place for all children and young people involved in a bullying incident.
"This may be through pastoral support and could include counselling, peer support, solution oriented approaches/restorative approaches and otherwise working to support changes in behaviour among children and young people in school and promote health and wellbeing.
“Schools also use the Respect Me resource which contains a range of information and training opportunities to help increase awareness among staff, pupils, parents and carers of bullying behaviour and different ways they can respond if their child is being bullied, or is involved in the bullying of others.
"These resources also offers guidance on how schools and parents can work together to create inclusive environments and provide effective support for children and young people.”