In the first instance, at a primary or junior school, see the class teacher and explain your worries in a friendly non-confrontational way.
The following points are a good way to find out more from the class or form tutor. You can use these questions as guidance.
- Ask how your child is getting on with others in class and raise any issues of conflict with other children
- Ask if the teacher has noticed that your child seems unhappy and isolated and is being excluded from games in the playground or regularly not having a partner to work with in class
- Ask the class teacher, or the head of year at secondary school, if he/she can keep an eye on the situation and let you know if they have any concerns
- Ask what the teacher suggests would be the best way of sorting it out. At a primary school perhaps the supervisors could take a more active role in the playground by keeping an eye on your child and ensuring that people are not excluded from games
- Ask the school if they would consider introducing "friendship seats" or a "buddy bench" if they don’t already, where younger children can go if they have nobody to play with. Other pupils can ask them to join their games and the supervisors can spot whether one child is on their own too often
Secondary schools may not be aware that there are some areas of the school pupils feel unsafe, such as corridors, lunch breaks and to and from school. By telling the head of year where the bullying is happening, supervision can be increased so that the bullies are caught red handed, meaning that your child can't be accused of telling tales.
At this stage it can be helpful to try to increase your child's circle of friends, by inviting a number of children home regularly to forge stronger friendships. They may also benefit from joining after school clubs in a bid to build confidence and make new friends. You may find it helpful to read our online advice about building resilience.
If bullying continues, what steps you can take
- Keep a diary of what your child says is happening. This should include dates, times and details of the incident together with any witnesses
- Write a note to the class teacher or head of year, explaining that the problem is still unresolved and ask for their support in helping to tackle this
- Suggest that contact between the bully and your child is monitored and limited, perhaps by the bully moving to another table or set
- Ask for your letter to be put onto your child's school file, together with a note of action taken. You can ask to see a copy of your child’s record to ensure that these have been accurately recorded although you will probably have to pay for copying charges
- Ask for a follow-up meeting after a couple of weeks to discuss how things are going
That often does the trick, but if not, it's time to write to the head teacher, outlining everything that has gone on, and including evidence from the diary to back up your complaint. You also have the option of copying this to the Board of Governors. Putting a complaint in writing is essential so that there is a record of your concern and this puts the situation on a more formal footing.
Schools have a duty of care, and allowing a child to be continually bullied when the school has been alerted to the problem could be seen as a breach of that duty. It's important not to take matters into your own hands and to confront the bully's parents. This can lead to serious arguments.
If your child is unhappy then take them to the doctor so that their distress can be recorded and if appropriate, medication or counselling can be started. A letter from your doctor to the school stressing the impact bullying is having on your child's physical and mental health can also be helpful.
- Calling the bully's parents in to school
- Senior Leadership detentions
- Isolation within school
- Fixed term exclusion
- Permanent exclusion
If bullying is happening in the changing rooms, in the corridors or playground then ask for supervision to be increased. If the school says it does not have the resources then explain that you are not asking for all the children to receive increased supervision, only the bully.
Ask for a copy of your complaint to the head teacher to be answered in writing and for a copy of it to be put onto your child's school file with a note of action taken. If the school asks you to go in to discuss the matter, then try to take a partner or friend with you for a bit of moral support. Make notes of the points you want to make beforehand and be firm and polite. It is important to keep calm.
After each visit send a letter to the school outlining the points of the meeting and action you have been told they will be taking. Ask to see the school bullying policy if you haven't already seen it. If you weren't happy with what you were told at the meeting then say so in the letter.
Taking time off school or school refusal
If your child is not attending schooll you may get a warning from school about possible fines unless you are teaching them at home. Unfair though it may be, keeping a child at home due to bullying is considered to be an unauthorised absence. Read our guidance on taking time off school for further advice.
If your child is willing to consider a phased return, this may be a good option. This is where your child attends for a few hours a day to build up confidence to return full time. You could ask your child's head of year to arrange for your child to have access to a particular teacher or pastoral support so they know they have somewhere safe to go if they feel under pressure. You could also ask whether a buddy could be arranged for your child to help them settle back in.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.