Behaviour in Scottish Schools study

Information for taking part in the Behaviour in Scottish Schools Study.
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What is the Behaviour in Scottish Schools study?

Behaviour in Scottish Schools study seeks the opinions of teachers, head teachers, and support staff to develop a robust national picture of relationships and behaviour in publicly funded mainstream schools. As the key source of data on pupil relationships and behaviour in Scotland it is crucial for developing policy and practice in relation to managing behaviour at both the national and local level.

Since 2006 the Behaviour in Scottish Schools study has been investigating:

  • the range of positive and negative pupil behaviours in the classroom and around the school;
  • different approaches to promoting positive relationships and behaviour, and
  • support received by school staff in this area.

As the research was last conducted in 2016, the 2023 study provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into recent pupil behaviour. The second phase of the research which involves 1 to 1 interviews with head teachers, teachers and support staff will give the opportunity to explore views on the impact of the pandemic.

How will the findings be used?

The findings of the research will be used to inform future guidance and national policy on behaviour and relationships in Scottish schools. It isn’t just the Scottish Government that are interested in the study findings. Behaviour in Schools has the backing of the Scottish Advisory Group on Behaviour in Schools (SAGRABIS), and members from COSLA, GTCS, Education Scotland and all the teaching unions. You can read the findings from the 2016 study here.

Why does behaviour in schools matter?

The focus on improving positive relationships and behaviour is central to the successful delivery of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the implementation of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC). A key goal for the Scottish education system is to ensure that positive learning behaviour and good relationships between classmates and teachers exists in all schools and that this is continually improving. The starting point for learning is a positive ethos and a climate of mutual respect and trust, based upon shared values across whole school communities, where everyone can learn and work in a peaceful and safe environment. CfE has an important role to play in promoting the health and wellbeing of children and young people and of all of those in the educational communities to which they belong.

Why take part?

A little time to make a big difference

The information provided by head teachers, teachers and support staff will provide the Scottish Government with accurate information about positive and negative behaviour in publicly funded mainstream schools across Scotland and identify how best to support approaches to promoting positive relationships and behaviour. The research also allows us to understand how behaviour in schools has changed over time, with the 2023 study being the first to take place after the COVID-19 lockdown period. It is the key source of data on pupil behaviour in Scotland so this is a unique opportunity for you to let us know about your experience. No specialist knowledge is required to take part and no individuals will be identified in research findings.

Do I need to seek approval to take part in the study?

Directors of Education are aware that this study is taking place and have been informed that schools will be contacted in January 2023 about taking part. ScotCen has gained ethics approval for this study via our Research Ethics Committee and the Scottish Government has confirmed that schools do not need to seek further ethics approval from local authorities to take part.

Why has my school been asked to take part?

To ensure we get a truly representative picture of pupil behaviour across Scotland all publicly funded secondary schools, and a random selection of primary schools, are being invited to participate. The more head teachers, teachers and support staff take part then the more accurately the study can reflect what is happening in Scottish schools. The survey is available online, with a paper option provided for support staff. Roughly 850 head teachers, 5000 teachers and 2500 support staff from across the country have been asked to take part. The quality of the survey information depends on you completing it. No matter what type of pupil relationships and behaviour you experience in your work, your experiences are very important to us.

Why have I been asked to take part?

To keep the burden on schools and staff to a minimum we are asking a random selection of teachers and support staff within each school to take part. The study has been designed to ensure that the findings are representative of the experiences of all teachers and support staff. This is a unique opportunity to tell us about your experience of positive and negative pupil behaviour at your school. Remember that this is not an assessment of you or your school. No school or staff member will be identifiable in study findings.

What questions will you ask? 

This study includes a variety of straightforward questions on the range of positive and negative pupil behaviours you may come across in your school. The research also now provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into recent pupil behaviour with questionnaires updated to reflect the COVID-19 pandemic. You will be able to skip any question you do not wish to answer.

Can I complete the questionnaire on my smart phone?

We recommend that you complete the questionnaire on a laptop or PC. It is possible to answer the questionnaire on a smart phone or tablet but it is likely to take considerably longer to answer the questions this way.

When do we need to fill in the questionnaire by?

The information sent to you school contains information on when the survey will be active until. If you cannot find this information, you can contact us using the details in the ‘Contact Us’ page.

You can do the survey at a time that is convenient for you. You do not have to complete the questionnaire in one sitting. If you want to take a break and finish it at another time, please take a note of your access code and use this to re-enter the survey at a later time. If you cannot remember your access code, you can still re-enter the survey using the same link, however your answers will not be saved so you will need to start from the beginning. Please wait at least 1 minute between closing your browser window and returning to the survey.

Follow-on qualitative research in schools

We will also be undertaking qualitative interviews with school staff. We will visit 14 schools between April and June 2023 to interview headteachers, teachers and support staff. The interviews will allow us to discuss some of the issues arising from the survey in more detail. This will provide a chance for school staff to share their experiences and views of behaviour management in their school. Headteachers will be asked whether they are interested in their school taking part in these interviews at the end of the survey. Please contact if you have any questions or would like more information.

Who is ScotCen?

ScotCen is part of the National Centre for Social Research, Britain’s leading centre for independent social research. Based in Edinburgh, we have over 15 years' experience of listening to the public and making sure their voice is heard. We are a non-profit organisation, independent of all government departments and political parties.

Uncovering real opinions

We are commissioned by government and charities to uncover the real views of people in Scotland today. What we find out is used to inform policy and make a difference to the lives of people across the nation.

Helping the nation

We are a charity and information from surveys we carry out is made publicly available. So it’s not just helping our clients, it’s used by other organisations trying to improve life in Scotland.

How will you look after my data?

The information from this survey is used by the Scottish Government and researchers to understand and analyse change in pupil behaviour in Scotland’s schools. We will treat the information you give us in the strictest confidence under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the EU General Data Protection Regulation. The results collected are used for research purposes only. At the end of the research, all data will be anonymised before being passed on to the Scottish Government and stored in an archive for other researchers to analyse.

Privacy notice

In this privacy notice, we explain the legal basis for data processing, who will have access to your personal data, how your data will be used, stored and deleted, and who you can contact with a query or a complaint.

Read more

Need any help?

If you have lost or misplaced your letter with the survey link and your access code, in the first instance speak to the ‘key contact’ at your school. This will be the person who gave you the letter to take part. They will be able to provide you with the link and a spare code if needed. If the link or code don’t appear to be working, please double check that you have typed everything correctly. If it is not working please ask your ‘key contact’  to contact us directly; or you can contact us yourself using the details in the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Useful contacts

Below is a list of some useful support organisations that can help if you would like some support or to discuss any of the topics that came up in the survey.

Samaritans – / Tel - 116 123

NHS 24 –

Clearyourhead -  

Barnardos Scotland - / Tel - 0131 446 7000

Place2Be Scotland / Tel - 020 7923 5500

NSPCC - / Tel – 0808 800 5000

Childline - / 0800 1111

Citizens Advice Bureau –

Contact us

If you have any questions at all, or would like to see copies of any of the surveys, you can contact a member of the research team by emailing

Alternatively, you can contact us on the Freephone number 0800 652 9295.