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5.3 Bullying


A revised version of Preventing and Tackling Bullying: Advice for Headteachers, Staff and Governing Bodies was issued in March 2014.


This chapter was updated in September 2018, new links were added into Section 6, Further Information.


  1. Definition
  2. The Child
  3. Action and Prevention
  4. Dealing With Incidents of Bullying by Children
  5. Local Sources of Support
  6. Further Information

1. Definition


Bullying may be defined as deliberately hurtful behaviour, involving an abuse of power and usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those bullied to defend themselves.

  • It can be inflicted on a child by another child or an adult; 
  • It can take many forms including:
  • Physical threats or violence;
  • Verbal intimidation or abuse;
  • Non-verbal mental or emotional abuse or pressure;
  • Written harassment e.g. notes, graffiti, text messages or emails;
  • Sexual, racial or homophobic harassment;
  • Anything that aims to make someone feel miserable, lonely or helpless.
1.2 Bullying often starts with events such as teasing and name calling which rely on an abuse of power. Such abuses of power, if left unchallenged, can lead to more serious forms of abuse, such as domestic abuse, racial attacks and sexual offences.

2. The Child


The Child Victim

Any child may be bullied but some groups of children can be particularly targeted as a result of prejudice and discrimination. These groups can include: children living away from home; children from minority ethnic groups; disabled children; gay and lesbian young people; children from travelling communities; unaccompanied asylum seeking young people or any group that is perceived as ‘different’ by others in the community.

The damage inflicted by bullying can often be underestimated. It can cause considerable distress to children, to the extent that it affects their health and development or, at the extreme, causes them Significant Harm including self-harm.

Children are often held back from telling anyone about their experience either by threats or a feeling that nothing can change their situation.

Parents, carers and agencies need to be alert to any changes in behaviour such as refusing to attend school or a particular place or activity, becoming withdrawn, isolated, and/or having angry outbursts. 


The Child Bully

Children can be both bullied and a bully and there are many reasons why bullying takes place. Some young people have been badly bullied and mistakenly turn to bullying as a way of coping. Others have a very low opinion of their self, are unhappy, jealous or lacking in confidence and think bullying will make them feel bigger and more popular. Bullying is often encouraged and fuelled by other young people who are bystanders, that is, they subtly or more directly condone and encourage the bullying behaviour. 

Work with children who bully, including those who sexually offend, should recognise that they are likely to have significant needs themselves and may be suffering or at risk of Significant Harm as well as posing a risk of significant harm to other children. If so, Children who Abuse Others Procedure should be followed. Work should also address the organisational or family culture which can contribute to an atmosphere which overtly or covertly condones bullying.

3. Action and Prevention


All settings in which children are provided with services or are living away from home should have in place an anti bullying policy and procedure that has been drawn up with the involvement of service users. The policy should include: a statement on what is bullying and its impact; the organisation’s values and beliefs; ways in which children can seek help which keeps them in control of the process as far as possible; how bullying is treated and monitored including statistics about the amount of bullying incidents and how they have been addressed. The policy and procedure should be regularly reviewed with staff and service users.


The following principles should underpin any anti-bullying policy and procedure.

  • A sense of community will be achieved only if organisations take seriously behaviour which upsets children and creates a culture where children have a clear understanding of the differing ways they can tell of their worries;
  • Children need to be given the skills and confidence to resolve conflict peacefully and develop a level of emotional literacy whereby they can appropriately express a range of feelings in a respectful way;
  • Promotion of the inclusion of all children within the setting counters isolation of individuals by others, nurtures friendships between children and, where it is a residential setting, supports them to adapt to their living arrangements;
  • Support should be offered to children for whom spoken English is not their first language to communicate needs and concerns;
  • Support should be offered to children who have special communication needs;
  • Children should be able to approach any member of staff within the organisation with personal concerns;
3.3 Children should have easy access to local and national sources of help e.g. Childline, local support services.

In order to maintain an effective strategy for dealing with bullying, the traditional ideas about bullying should be challenged, e.g.

  • It’s only a bit of harmless fun;
  • It’s all part of growing up;
  • Children just have to put up with it;
  • Adults getting involved make it worse.
3.5 Clear messages must be given that bullying is not acceptable and children must be reassured that significant adults involved in their lives are dealing with bullying seriously.
3.6 A climate of openness should be established in which children are not afraid to address issues and incidents of bullying.
3.7 Consideration should always be given to the existence of any underlying issues in relation to disability, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. This should be addressed and challenged accordingly. 
3.8 Where a child is thought to be exposed to bullying, action should be taken to assess the child’s needs and provide support services. The child or young person should remain in control of the support they receive and agree the action taken unless it is assessed they are not Gillick Competent.
3.9 If the bullying involves a physical assault or is of a very serious nature, as well as seeking medical attention where necessary, consideration should be given to whether there are any child protection or criminal issues to consider. Serious sexual assault should always be reported to police. 
3.10 Where appropriate and with the child's consent, parents should be informed and updated on a regular basis. They should also, when applicable, be involved in supporting programmes devised to challenge bullying behaviour.

4. Dealing With Incidents of Bullying by Children

4.1 Research shows that a non punitive approach is the most effective way to tackle bullying. Bullying behaviour should be robustly challenged and a commitment made to support the child to stop bullying by understanding his/her behaviour and the impact on others.

Creating an Anti-Bullying climate that is conducive to equality of opportunity, co-operation, and mutual respect for differences can be achieved by, for example:

  • Low Tolerance of Minor Bullying - “Nipping in the bud” the incidents at the earliest sign;
  • Never ignore victims of bullying, always show an interest/concern;
  • Acknowledge the bullied child’s distress;
  • Create a culture of mutual respect and develop activities and structures which allow children to work together to develop the skills to identify their own feelings, thoughts, problems, causes and solutions e.g. Circle Time, ‘buddying’ systems, listening skills, peaceful conflict resolution skills.
4.3 It is important when addressing bullying behaviour by another child to avoid accusations, threats or any responses that will only lead to the child being uncooperative and silent.
4.4 The focus should be on the bullying behaviour rather than the child and where possible the reasons for the behaviour should be explored and dealt with. A clear explanation of the extent of the upset the bullying has caused should be given and encouragement to see the bullied child’s points of view. The child (bully and bullied) should then be closely monitored. The times, places and circumstances in which the risk of bullying is greatest should be ascertained and action taken to reduce the risk of recurrence.

5. Local Sources of Support

Advice can be sought via Solihull’s Anti-Bullying Helpline for parents/carers and adults working with young people. The Helpline number is 0121 770 6030 - Mon - Fri 8.45am - 3.45pm.

Parents and carers can also get advice if they are worried that their child is being bullied by visiting the Family Information Service.


6. Further Information

See also:

Preventing and Tackling Bullying (DfE)

Cyberbullying: Advice for Headteachers and School Staff (DfE)

Advice for Parents and Carers on Cyberbullying (DfE)

Specialist Organisations:

  • The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA): Founded in 2002 by NSPCC and National Children's Bureau, the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) brings together over 100 organisations into one network to develop and share good practice across the whole range of bullying issues;
  • Kidscape: Charity established to prevent bullying and promote child protection providing advice for young people, professionals and parents about different types of bullying and how to tackle it. They also offer specialist training and support for school staff, and assertiveness training for young people;
  • The Diana Award: Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme to empower young people to take responsibility for changing the attitudes and behaviour of their peers towards bullying. It will achieve this by identifying, training and supporting school anti-bullying ambassadors;
  • The BIG Award: The Bullying Intervention Group (BIG) offer a national scheme and award for schools to tackle bullying effectively.

Cyber Bullying:

  • ChildNet International: Specialist resources for young people to raise awareness of online safety and how to protect themselves;
  • Internet Watch Foundation: for reporting illegal images and content;
  • Think U Know: Resources provided by Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) for children and young people, parents, carers and teachers;
  • Digizen: Provide online safety information for educators, parents, carers and young people;
  • Advice on Child Internet Safety 1.0: The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has produced universal guidelines for providers on keeping children safe online.


  • Schools Out : Offers practical advice, resources (including lesson plans) and training to schools on LGBT equality in education;
  • Stonewall: An LGBT equality organisation with considerable expertise in LGB bullying in schools, a dedicated youth site, resources for schools, and specialist training for teachers.



  • Show Racism the Red Card: Provide resources and workshops for schools to educate young people, often using the high profile of football, about racism;
  • Kick it Out: Uses the appeal of football to educate young people about racism and provide education packs for schools;
  • Anne Frank Trust: Runs a schools project to teach young people about Anne Frank and the Holocaust, the consequences of unchecked prejudice and discrimination, and cultural diversity.