CLACKS Council insists schools are taking “any allegations of bullying very seriously”, despite only a handful of incidents being officially recorded over the last few years.

A safeguarding concern has been raised over the issue after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed only 14 incidents of bullying logged across the Wee County's 24 public schools over three years.

According to the data, obtained by a concerned citizen, there was only a single incident of bullying recorded in the Scottish Education Management Information System, or SEEMiS, across all Clacks schools during 2020-21.

The figures show 10 incidents recorded the year before and three logged in 2018-19.

Out of the past three years, there were two when not a single incident was recorded in Clacks primaries.

Under guidance for the Scottish Government's Respect for All policy, a “streamlined and uniform recording and monitoring process by local authorities and schools would help to identify key measures and actions that can be undertaken to address incidents of bullying”.

According to 2014 research by anti-bullying service respectme, referenced in the same policy, 30 per cent of children experienced some form of bullying.

There were just over 6,300 pupils across primary and secondary schools in Clacks in 2020-21 – 30 per cent amounting to close to 1,900 pupils.

Based on the single incident reported, only around 0.016 per cent of Clacks pupils experienced bullying.

A concerned citizen, who wished to remain anonymous, raised the issue with the Advertiser, having requested information from all councils after their child experienced bullying in a school outwith the Wee County.

They told the Advertiser: “The public need to know about it in Clackmannanshire; there is no way in this world those numbers are real – it's outrageous and it's putting children at risk.”

The concerned citizen explained that based on the percentage of pupils bullied, Clacks was either the “best” local authority in the country if so few children are bullied or the “worst” for under-reporting.

He is urging parents who may be concerned about whether incidents are recorded properly to ask schools to see their children's records.

Clackmannanshire Council was twice asked whether it would dispute the figures.

The Advertiser also inquired whether bullying incidents may be recorded outwith SEEMiS.

A council spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of our young people is a priority and we take any allegations of bullying very seriously.

“Any incidents within our schools are reported in line with Scottish Government guidelines.

“Staff in schools are well versed on how to address such incidents and what measures need to be taken, including a thorough investigation and appropriate follow up actions, to ensure the matter is resolved.

“Schools advise parents, carers and young people to report any incidents to pastoral care staff, who will then escalate this to senior management level if required.”

Parents’ organisation Connect said a range of factors were behind what it described as the “serious” issue of under-reporting.

A spokeswoman also told the Advertiser's sister-publication, The Herald: “This can include not wanting to damage a school's reputation or naively believing it doesn't happen.”

Speaking to The Herald, a Scottish Government spokesman added: “We expect all schools to develop and implement an anti-bullying policy and review it regularly.

“Our national Respect for All strategy makes clear preventing and responding to bullying is not just the responsibility of schools but also adults involved in the lives of children and young people.”

The spokesman added a consistent approach to recording and monitoring was introduced in 2019 with all schools expected to follow it.

An evaluation is to be undertaken by Education Scotland later this year.