Nil by Mouth

Claire Gilfillan recently met with an charity called Nil by Mouth to discuss the work that do in tackling sectarianism both in schools and in the wider community.
Claire Gilfillan, Web Content Editor, GTC Scotland

I recently met with Yvonne Donald, Education Officer, from a charity called Nil by Mouth, to discuss the work that they do in tackling sectarianism both in schools and in the wider community.

Nil by Mouth exists to combat long-standing issues of sectarianism in Scotland that have blighted and conditioned the lives of many. Nil by Mouth wish to create a positive response whereby people will live in harmony; without fear, intimidation, prejudice or discrimination. Nil by Mouth believes that all children living in Scotland are entitled to a quality education based on the principles of equality irrespective of faith, belief and culture.

Nil by Mouth was set up after the death of a young man named Mark Scott. It was one of his friends, a young teenage girl, Cara Henderson, who took matters into her own hands to tackle this issue and create change. This is very much the message that Nil by Mouth want to pass on to young people today; that they are responsible for making changes to our society.


Nil by Mouth runs free workshops in schools for both teachers and pupils to take part in. The workshops are designed to give young people an understanding of sectarianism and what the issues are. They also help to expel the myths, it’s not just about the football; only 33% of arrests regarding sectarianism have anything to do with football, that means two-thirds of arrests are coming from somewhere else. The workshops also explore the attitudes of young people, questioning where they have developed their thoughts and ultimately looking at change and how they can take responsibility for change.

Accreditation Scheme

The charity has recently launched an Accreditation Scheme that schools can get involved with. The Anti-Sectarian Accreditation Award gives schools an exciting opportunity to celebrate their good practice in becoming Champions for Change in Challenging Sectarianism and meeting the demands of Curriculum for Excellence.

A school which has achieved accreditation as a Champion for Change in Challenging Sectarianism will be able to demonstrate the following features:

  • An ethos where rights are respected and a culture of responsible citizenship is given high priority
  • Young people who show confidence, commitment and responsibility in developing the skills required to change sectarianism appropriately
  • Evidence of an active inter-denominational partnership in challenging sectarianism involving staff, pupils and parents across the community
  • A leadership team which is fully committed to developing a school community free from sectarianism through policy, staff training and the curriculum
  • Evidence of an on-going commitment to embedding anti-sectarian education across the curriculum
  • Evidence of working in partnership with ant-sectarian organisations including Nil by Mouth
  • Young people who are actively involved in community projects which are seen to address sectarianism in the local community
  • Specific procedures which are actively promoted throughout the school community in recording and dealing with incidents of a sectarian nature

Nil by Mouth is confident that when a school is successful in achieving the Award the impacts and benefits for young people, their families and their communities will be significant. These outcomes include:

  • Respect for the rights of other to have their own beliefs and opinions
  • More positive attitudes and behaviour
  • A reduction in bullying and discrimination
  • An improved culture of responsible citizenship
  • Friendship and respect across communities

You can apply to take part in the Accreditation Scheme by calling Nil by Mouth on 07792380240 and requesting an application form. Nil by Mouth staff are also on hand to answers any questions you may have about the scheme.

Challenging sectarian behaviour

Yvonne Donald says the best way to tackle this kind of behaviour is to talk about it. Open up an honest discussion with the young person or people involved. Find out if the young person knows what they are saying, what they are involved in and discuss how you can tackle it together. If you have an issue with a particular pupil, the charity would advise you to phone the parents. It might not be an easy conversation, but it is very important to get them involved and talk through your worries and ways to tackle the problem. If in doubt, phone Nil by Mouth, Yvonne and her colleague Dave are always happy to give advice and support. Yvonne says, “It’s all about confidence, it’s about feeling that you can take it forward and that you can open that discussion and it might not be the easiest thing to do, but the reward that you’ll get from that from the young person is fantastic."

Further information

Further information and support can be found on the Nil by Mouth website at:

You can also get in touch with Yvonne Donald directly at if you have any queries or if you would like more information about Nil by Mouth’s Accreditation Scheme.

Listen to a podcast about Nil by Mouth and the work they do with pupils and schools to tackle sectarianism.