The aim of an anti-bullying policy is to ensure that pupils can flourish and be educated in a safe and supported environment.
Bullying is unacceptable and affects everyone. When a education provider has a clear and robust anti bullying policy, it can help children and young people and families to feel reassured that the school will take the bullying serious.
Why does a school need an anti-bullying policy?
Bullying can have an impact on a child’s ability to learn effectively and on their mental health. All education providers should provide a secure and happy environment free from threat, harassment, and any type of bullying behaviour. Therefore, having a robust policy can help promote a safe space for children to learn and grow in a positive way.
What does the law say?
Every school in England must have measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying and it is a requirement that every school must have an Anti-Bullying Policy as stated in Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. There are several statutory obligations on schools with regards to behaviour which establish clear responsibilities to respond to bullying.
It is expected that 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 communicated to all pupils, school staff and parents. It also gives head teachers the ability to ensure that pupils behave when they are not on school premises or under the lawful control of school staff.
Bullying outside of school
Head teachers have a specific statutory power to discipline pupils for poor behaviour outside of the school premises. Section 89(5) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives head teachers the power to regulate pupils’ conduct when they are not on school premises and are not under the lawful control or charge of a member of school staff. This can relate to any bullying incidents occurring anywhere off the school premises, such as on school or public transport, outside the local shops, or in a town or village centre.
Where bullying outside school is reported to school staff, it should be investigated and acted on. The head teacher should also consider whether it is appropriate to notify the police or anti-social behaviour coordinator in their local authority of the actions taken against a pupil. If the misbehaviour could be criminal or poses a serious threat to a member of the public, the police should always be informed.
Whole school approach
Invite the students and teachers to be a part of the process of reviewing and updating the anti-bullying policy. When everyone is involved, they are more likely to take the policy seriously and understand it.
Ensure that all staff including mid-day assistants, play staff and learning assistants are trained on the anti-bullying policy as often they can be the ones who spot the signs of a student experiencing bullying. Other tips include:
Involve parents so they understand the policy in a transparent way. Parents are likely to spot the signs if their child is experiencing bullying and a clear policy can be reassuring and help them know how the school can deal with this
Involve pupils so they feel confident and are clear about their role in helping to prevent bullying and know how to report it if they see it. Ensure the policy states that you take their privacy seriously and if they wish to not be named in reporting bullying this should be respected as much as possible.
What needs to be in the policy?
The policy needs to outline the rights and responsibilities of the school’s approach to bullying and what they expect in terms of behaviour from the students. It needs to ensure that consequences are transparent so if a student is proven to be a bullying, they understand the sanctions. Some of these sanctions could include warnings, isolation, detentions, exclusion, or police involvement. We would strongly advise that parents are informed and involved at every step.
It is important to ensure that the bullying policy has clear definitions of the different forms of bullying such as name calling, social bullying or cyberbullying. Ensure that the policy has information on review dates and anti-bullying awareness events.
Staff training is crucial to a positive anti-bullying policy. When all school staff fully understand the purpose of the policy and what steps to take then they will have confidence in this. They need to know how to report bullying that is online and when it becomes serious, to involve the police.
Regular updates and training
It is important to update and evaluate your policy at least every 12 months as there are always new developments and changes that may need to be reflected in your policy. Celebrating your achievements in supporting students is an important way of creating a positive school environment. Anti-bullying week is a great way to showcase all the work that you do to help prevent and minimise bullying.
For further guidance on developing a positive anti-bullying policy, please see the Preventing and Tackling Bullying guidance from Gov.UK. You will also find it helpful to visit Anti-Bullying Alliance for their comprehensive advice.