School bullying can not only impair a child’s ability to study, but it can also lead to major mental health problems that can last through adulthood. Bullying can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including:
- Physical bullying
- Verbal bullying
- Peer pressure
- Social bullying
- Cyber-bullying (including social media and gaming)
- Discrimination including race, disability and sexual orientation
Your child’s school should have an effective anti-bullying policy and behaviour policy in place to decrease incidences of bullying. These rules will not only define the standard for acceptable behaviour in school, but they should also give certainty and confidence to parents that a strategy is in place to help pupils.
Establishing a healthy school ethos and culture should preserve and promote the well-being and education of children.
In terms of a school’s legal obligations:
- State/Maintained Schools: must have measures to encourage “good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying amongst pupils”
- Private/Independent Schools and Academies: the school/academy should prevent bullying “in so far as reasonably practicable, by drawing up and implementation of an effective anti-bullying strategy”
If a bullying incident is reported to the school, it should be handled fairly and in accordance with the school’s anti-bullying and behaviour policy. The school may opt to penalise the bully and should also explore how to avoid similar instances in the future. In addition to any disciplinary action taken against the bully, schools must also remember to help the student who have been bullied.
If your child is being bullied at school and you think the school is not dealing with the ongoing problems, you should have the option to file a formal complaint with the headteacher. If you believe the headteacher has not dealt with the bullying adequately and fairly, you may be able to raise your complaint to the school’s governing board.