Sadly, many children experience bullying at school at some stage. Bullying can be very distressing to children and worrying for parents. It can impact on children’s learning at school and in the the worst cases may lead to truancy, school refusal or mental health problems.
Bullying can take many different forms but can often be defined as behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally.
In simple terms:
Bullying can take place for many reasons. Being different in some way such as having special educational needs or a disability or belonging to a particular ethnic group can make a child vulnerable to bullying but it can happen to anyone.
Schools have a duty to promote good behaviour and to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. The head must publish a behaviour policy and bring it to the attention of parents. The anti-bullying policy may be part of the behaviour policy or a stand-alone policy.
The school also has a general duty of care towards pupils to ensure that they are safe.
The government has issued guidance and advice for schools on tackling bullying. The government expects schools to take steps to prevent bullying and to take action when bullying occurs. Links to these can be found under Government Guidance below.
If your child is being bullied at school this is likely to be upsetting for you as a parent as well. Although there may not be any instant solutions, there are some steps that you can take.
The ones you will need will be the behaviour policy, the anti-bullying policy and the school’s complaints procedure. Depending on your child’s situation you may also want the special educational needs policy.
Your child will need a lot of encouragement and support. They may be reluctant to talk to you about the bullying and they may not want you to approach the school. You can help by listening and reassuring them that it is not their fault and that you are there to support them. Try to build up their general confidence and give them strategies they can use for helping themselves. Some of the websites in the useful links section have tips for children and young people on dealing with bullies.
When you are taking the matter up with the school it’s a good idea to be sure of your facts. Keep a record of any bullying incidents with as much detail as you can. If your child has been physically injured you may want to take photos of the injuries. Include in your report any medical evidence. If the bullying has taken place outside of school or on social media try to include any evidence you can.
Write down the impact that the bullying has had on your child. Has their behaviour changed, are they reluctant to go to school, are they anxious, withdrawn or not sleeping? Has their school work suffered? Has their behaviour at home changed?
Initially you may want to raise your concerns informally with your child’s class teacher or form tutor. If you feel the bullying is not being dealt with, then ask for a meeting with a more senior teacher. This might be your child’s head of year, the senior teacher in charge of anti-bullying work or the headteacher. It can be helpful to take another person along to support you at the meeting.
Take along any written evidence about the bullying. It will also help to have some suggestions about what the school might do. These might be:
Agree at the meeting what action will be taken, what support your child will receive and when you will meet again to review the situation. Make sure everyone is in agreement.
You will need to allow time for the school to take action but if the bullying continues you can make a formal complaint in line with the school’s complaints procedure. This will generally be first to the headteacher and then to the governors of the school.