The ‘Omnibus survey of pupils and their parents or carers’, published by the DfE in 2017, revealed that, out of the 1,847 Year 7 to 13 pupils surveyed, 45 percent said they had been bullied in the previous 12 months. Additionally, 63 percent of respondents said they had witnessed someone else being bullied at school within the same period.
Though there is no legal requirement for schools to record or report incidents of bullying, all schools should develop their own approaches for monitoring bullying with a focus on what will work best for their pupils.
A whole school approach to preventing and tackling bullying is crucial – involving staff, pupils, parents and governors allows you to promote and develop a culture of good behaviour.
This document provides guidance on some of the methods you can use to promote respectful behaviour and tackle various forms of bullying in your school.
Begin by reviewing your current practices and policies for behaviour and the prevention of bullying to determine whether improvements are needed. Looking at areas where issues are likely to occur and putting structures in place to minimise any opportunity is an effective example of prevention. Your behaviour and anti-bullying policies should provide a clear definition of what bullying is and should be regularly reviewed and updated.
You could also consider creating pupil-friendly anti-bullying and behavioural policies to display in classrooms and places where pupils are often gathered, e.g. the assembly hall.
Ensure that your school’s ethos and values reflect your anti-bullying ambitions – these should underpin everything that the school does. Your ethos should promote kindness and respect and be modelled by all adults across the school.
Posters and signs can be used to raise awareness by explaining what constitutes bullying, helping people recognise that everyone is different, deserves respect and deserves to feel comfortable being themselves. Posters can also be used to promote careful language and instil a collective understanding of the power of words to cause harm to others if used in the wrong way. The idea of acceptable “banter” should be challenged.
For primary schools, values should focus on kindness and kind behaviour. In secondary schools, values should extend to democracy, equality, respect, resilience, tolerance and understanding.
Assemblies and whole-school celebrations attached to key events in the calendar that cover anti-bullying themes, e.g. Black History Month or Pride, are a good way of promoting your values. You may find that the school benefits from inviting external agencies and speakers into the school to deliver different and engaging anti-bullying sessions.
If possible, you should find ways to integrate anti-bullying into the curriculum, e.g. through PSHE lessons. All aspects of bullying, such as how to be kind, what it means to be different, what bullying is, indirect bullying and bystander behaviour, should be regularly discussed in these lessons.
You should also use this time to discuss topics such as religion, LGBTQ+ and disabilities, to ensure pupils are tolerant and respectful of other people’s beliefs, cultures and disabilities. Try to involve staff and pupils in lesson planning: they will feel empowered and more likely to engage in the subject.
Diversity should be celebrated across the curriculum: the impact of discrimination can be studied through history, geography and English. Inviting speakers into the school and developing specially tailored assemblies, e.g. for Black History Month, teaches pupils to consider equality and diversity issues.
Trends in technology and social media change at a rapid rate, so it can be challenging to keep up; however, early identification of trends can mean that you are providing the best information, advice and support for staff, pupils, parents and carers.
Allocate responsibility for keeping up-to-date with trends to a senior member of staff, and work with external organisations, e.g. the LA, to ensure you have the most topical information. Talk to pupils and ensure your cyberbullying and online safety policies are updated regularly with information about the latest social media websites, apps and games.
If possible, speak to social media companies and learn about the ways pupils can protect themselves with privacy settings – this information can also be relayed to parents through leaflets or regular sessions in school, so they are aware of how to ensure their children are safe. Pupils are going to go online and use social media regardless of what they are told, so it is important to educate them and their parents on how to be as safe as possible.
Should a cyber bullying incident occur, you should tackle the situation in the same way you would any other bullying incident. Bring the victims and perpetrators together to discuss the impact of cyber bullying and invite parents into the school to ensure both sides of the conversation are shared. Be sure to provide continued support after incidents occur and talk to the victim and perpetrators to ensure things do not escalate again.
For a whole school approach to work, staff need to be aware of their responsibilities and how they can promote good behaviour in school. It is important for staff to understand that, though the school may not be facing issues with bullying presently, pupils still need to be educated in all related topics, such as social media, sexting, interactive gaming and LGBTQ+ issues. This will help to ensure pupils are prepared for a future where they meet different types of people and help to prevent bullying incidents from occurring.
Engaging staff can be difficult, especially if they don’t see anti-bullying as a priority; however, to ensure appropriate expectations of behaviour are modelled, all staff need a consistent approach to tackling behavioural issues. Staff training on the issues can address any lack of engagement – you can invite external speakers in to the school, ask your LA about any training they might offer or even ask pupils to lead sessions based on their experiences. Training could focus on modelling good behaviour, equality and diversity, attachment disorders and the consequential behaviours, de-escalation or the use of appropriate language.
If your school has chosen to implement anti-bullying into PSHE lessons, teachers would also benefit from training on how to deliver these lessons, what to do if a pupil confides in them and the steps to take if a pupil needs support.
Regular anti-bullying staff meetings could be conducted on a termly basis in which staff can share information about training courses they have attended or incidents that have occurred since the last meeting. This will ensure that all staff are kept informed about important school issues and provide opportunities to discuss how incidents could be better managed by the school.
Engaging and empowering pupils is a powerful method for preventing and tackling bullying. Pupil-led practices can be effective as they result in pupils being more motivated and engaged with the issues and, therefore, more likely to take positive messages on-board. These sessions will also help address issues that are more relevant to pupils, as they can discuss and build on their own experiences.
Pupils should be encouraged to come up with ideas and oversee running anti-bullying events and workshops, deliver assemblies, training and anti-bullying sessions to peers, staff and even parents, and be actively involved in writing the school’s behavioural and anti-bullying policies.
In addition, you can also allocate a pupil anti-bullying role, e.g. anti-bullying ambassadors or prefects. These roles can be tailored to your school’s vision and ethos but should encompass providing peer-to-peer support for pupils and acting as a point of contact between pupils and members of staff. Make sure that nominated pupils are highly visible to their peers and receive specific training for the role – they can play a key role in ensuring the school is a nice place to be.
Prefects and anti-bullying ambassadors could also:
- Deliver induction sessions for new pupils who start at the school.
- Produce anti-bullying displays.
- Provide training for new prefects or ambassadors.
- Take part in peer mentor schemes.
Keeping open communications between home and school can be challenging, particularly where parents are hard to reach, but when done well it can benefit pupils’ behaviour.
Parental engagement should take place from the moment that parents sign-up on admission to the school. Develop a home-school agreement for parents and pupils to sign, through which they are agreeing to uphold your school’s values. This agreement should recognise any cultural differences in your school and its community and set out clear consequences for pupils who do not uphold the values.
You can also involve parents in the creation of behavioural policies, anti-bullying assemblies or curriculum changes to ensure their views have been considered and that they understand how the school handles bullying. Including parents in these processes, hosting regular parent sessions or implementing an open-door policy, can promote your interest in parental engagement and reinforces the positive message that you want them involved.
It is not just staff that can benefit from training sessions: you can provide parents with access to, or point them in the direction of, training on attachment and trauma, parenting skills, behaviour strategies, and how to keep children safe online. Allowing parents to develop an understanding of the issues that children face and how to manage them will help to prevent future incidents of bullying.
There are many other ways that parental engagement can be achieved, such as the following:
- Regular parent forums – these can be structured like a coffee morning and allow parents to come into the school to discuss a range of topics, including bullying.
- Support sessions – to equip parents with the appropriate resources to deal with issues that children may be facing, such as cyber bullying; these can be run at various times in a day or week to maximise their reach.
- Surveys – conducted regularly, these can be used to monitor both parent and pupil experiences and attitudes to the school’s behaviour policies and procedures. Survey findings can also be used to review the wellbeing of pupils.
- Employ a parent from the local community – employing someone who represents the local community, e.g. a parent from a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community if your school has a high number of GTR pupils, helps to build relationships between the school and the community. and pupils are more likely to be tolerant and respectful of other people’s beliefs, cultures and disabilities.
Should an incident occur, early engagement with parents is essential and will allow for issues to be discussed fully and for both sides to be shared.
Responding to incidents
To avoid escalation, a rapid response to any incident of bullying is essential. Parents on both sides should be contacted immediately regarding any incidents of bullying – a rapid response can give pupils confidence to know that bullying will be dealt with and to reinforce the message that your school does not tolerate bullying.
It is also important that you provide a rapid response to any unkind behaviour or building tensions. Staff should talk to pupils to help them understand how their behaviour might be perceived by others. Pupils should be provided with a variety of ways to report concerns or incidents – some pupils might struggle to talk to a member of staff; therefore, providing an anonymous opportunity for reporting will ensure all concerns are voiced.
Following an incident, you should provide appropriate support and intervention for both the victim and perpetrator, e.g. counselling. Restorative approaches to incidents of bullying can work well for resolving issues between pupils; give the victim an opportunity to explain the impact of the incident on them, and the perpetrator the opportunity to explain the impact on them and to apologise to the victim. This approach allows the perpetrator to acknowledge the impact of their actions and take appropriate steps to put it right.
You should keep a record of all bullying incidents that occur so that repeat issues can be dealt with appropriately and bullying incidents are prevented. Using a Behaviour Log enables you to track the frequency of incidents and offers space to record the action taken and support offered to the victim and perpetrator. You can also use a Prejudice-Relate Incident Reporting Form to monitor and discourage specific discrimination behaviour and evaluate pupil behaviour.
Incidents outside school
It can be harder to manage incidents of bullying that take place outside of your school because, for example, of pupils’ use of social media and the internet; however, you do have the power to intervene if an incident is reported to a member of your staff.
Incidents outside of school have the potential to impact on pupils inside the school, so these should be investigated and tackled in a similar way to if they had occurred in school.
If an incident involves a member of the public, you should offer as much advice and support as you are able to for the pupils and parents involved, before directing them to external support, e.g. the local police.
You should ensure that your Anti-Bullying Policy for Pupils is up-to-date and an accurate reflection of your school’s ethos and values. Our Anti-Bullying Policy Checklist can be used to clarify whether your policy contains the necessary elements. You can also give pupils our Child-Friendly Anti-Bullying Policy which addresses types of bullying, what pupils should do if they are experiencing bullying, who they can talk to and more.
You should also ensure that your behaviour policies have been reviewed; using our Behaviour Policy Checklist will allow you to meet all statutory requirements.
Make sure you are aware of how to prevent and challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying by reading through our 10 Ways to Tackle HBT Bullying guidance. This document contains useful advice for schools, including having an inclusive school vision, policies, supporting pupils and more. Our LGBT Policy contains a section on transphobia, homophobia and bullying, which includes the steps the school will take following an incident.
It can be difficult to find time to create training and educational resources for staff, that’s why we have created our Social Media – Risks to Pupils and What Schools Can Do Meet and Brief Pack. This training pack can be used to bring staff members up-to-speed with the risks social media poses to pupils and explains how to identify a pupil that might be experiencing cyber bullying.
We have many more resources that you can utilise to tackle and prevent bullying in your school. Visit our Anti-Bullying Resource Pack for more policies, guidance and templates to ensure you are protecting and supporting the pupils in your school.
You can read the DfE’s ‘Approaches to preventing and tackling bullying’ 2018, created in collaboration with CooperGibson Research, which contains case studies that show how schools have successfully promoted respectful behaviour and tackled bullying.
DfE (2018) ‘Approaches to preventing and tackling bullying’
Related terms: anti-bullying, preventative approach.