Bullying is defined as: behaviour by an individual or group repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally. Bullying can take many forms (for instance, cyber-bullying via text messages or the internet), and is often motivated by prejudice against particular groups, for example on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or because a child is adopted or has caring responsibilities. It might be motivated by actual differences between children, or perceived differences. Anyone can be bullied and it is possible for children to both bully and be bullied.
All schools have a statutory duty to comply with the Equality Act 2010 which came into force on 1st April 2011. Policies should show due regard to the three main aims of the act and explicitly refer to the nine protected characteristics. This is in addition to the provision of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 which states:
1) every school must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. These measures should be part of the school’s behaviour policy which must be available for all pupils, school staff and parents.
2)head teachers have the ability to ensure that pupils behave when they are not on school premises or under the lawful control of school staff.
The revised OfSTED framework (Jan 2012) will look for evidence that schools can demonstrate the impact of their policies. Current government guidance states schools should exercise their own judgement on whether to have a formal recording system but policies should be reviewed annually in conjunction with pupils and parents. Additionally, the local authority collates data on racist incidents through a dedicated Racist Incident Monitoring email address.
Who can help with anti-bullying work? The local authority Children’s Services have teams of specialist staff who can help schools be proactive in promoting the development of social and emotional skills and reducing bullying for instance by the use of evidence based programmes such as The 4Rs’ Anti-bullying package and TaMHS (Targeted Mental Health in Schools). Staff are able to support schools with advice on policy writing and training across a wide range of issues including working with families through Family SEAL, supporting pupils who have been bullied as well as those who are seen as the perpetrators. For up to date information and government guidance check the DfE website.