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ESAS research

ESAS Research and Evaluation 

There is currently little evidence on the best ways to tackle gender-based violence (GBV) in schools. Research being undertaken as part of Equally Safe at School (ESAS) aims to address that gap. 

The University of Glasgow is the research partner on ESAS. The research team supported the development of ESAS, involving staff, students and policy stakeholders in its design. During the pilot of ESAS (2019-2020), the team’s research helped identify drivers of school-based GBV and led to refinements in the design of ESAS.  

The team has used their research to produce a set of tools which are now used in training and other ESAS activities (see outputs below). They are currently running the National Evaluation of ESAS. 

National Evaluation of Equally Safe at School 

The research team is undertaking a national evaluation which aims to establish the benefits of ESAS for schools. Around 35 schools are taking part between 2023 and 2026. To provide the most reliable comparison, schools are randomised to start ESAS immediately or to join a ‘waitlist’ and start ESAS one year later. Six of the ‘immediate start’ schools are ‘case-study’ schools, providing more detailed information. 

The evaluation assesses whether the ESAS intervention is effective in reducing sexual harassment within secondary schools alongside other potential benefits. It also looks at whether the ESAS intervention represents value for money, and whether it is delivered well. Evidence from the evaluation will help policymakers decide how to address GBV in schools.   

The Evaluation is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research [grant 154376]. 

Research Outputs 

Research based resources 

An animated video describes school-based GBV from the perspective of students and is a helpful discussion-starter with students, staff, parents and stakeholders.  

A school systems map explains why it’s difficult for students to report gender-based violence, and difficult for staff to intervene and respond. It shows the school-level factors crucial to tackling GBV, and how these are connected. The map can be used to support discussions with staff. 

The theory of change explains how the ESAS programme works and the conditions in which it works best. It is helpful for those who want to know more about the ESAS approach.  

Brief student and staff surveys provide schools with key information to help understand the issues for their school.  

The survey questions are designed from standard measures, piloted and discussed with the evaluation Youth Advisory Group. They focus on experiences (students only) and views on school-based GBV.  The surveys are self-administered by schools, free of charge, and produce automated results in simple graphs. These tools can be found in the ‘monitoring and evaluation’ section of My ESAS, after registering for an account. 

Research papers

A paper on prevalence of sexual harassment in Scottish Schools is based on the ESAS pilot phase and found that two-thirds of students report recent experience of one or more of 17 sexual harassment behaviours in the last three months. At school, sexual harassment most commonly involves unwanted jokes and gestures and showing or sending unwanted sexual images or messages and less frequently includes kissing or sexual touching. Students expressed uncertainty about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and said that much depended on how well they knew the other person, their understanding of intent and the degree of pressure, persistence and physicality.  

More information

If you would like to find out more about research and evaluation in ESAS, please contact us at: 

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