Almost half of all children and young people (44%) say that they’ve been bullied at school, according to the Tellus3 survey, carried out in 2008 by Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education).
ChildLine, the children’s helpline, received an average of 2,700 calls a month about bullying between April 2007 and April 20…08. This makes bullying the number one reason why children call ChildLine.
What is bullying?
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) defines bullying as: “Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group, either physically or emotionally.”Bullying can take many forms: from teasing and spreading rumours to pushing someone around and causing physical harm. It often happens in front of other people.It includes name calling, mocking, kicking, taking belongings, writing or drawing offensive graffiti, messing around with people’s belongings, gossiping, excluding people from groups, and threatening others.
Why are people bullied?
Children and young people are bullied for all sorts of reasons. It can be due to their race, their religion, their appearance, their sexual orientation, because they have a disability or because of their home circumstances. People are bullied for being black, white, fat, clever, gay or red-haired. These are a few examples. But people are sometimes picked on for no reason.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is increasingly common both inside and outside school. Cyber bullying is any form of bullying that involves the use of mobile phones or the internet. For example, sending offensive text messages and emails, circulating degrading images on the internet, or impersonating someone on social networking sites such Facebook.
The effects of bullying
Bullying makes the lives of its victims miserable. It undermines their confidence and destroys their sense of security. Bullying on can cause sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety and poor concentration, and lead to self-harm, depression, suicidal thoughts and, in some cases, suicide. Bullying can also affect children and young people’s attendance and progress at school.
Young people can be 1 of 5 things
- A bully
- A victim
- A hurtful bystander
- A passive bystander
- A helpful bystander
Recognising the signs of a victim
Finding out that your child is being bullied is a stressful and distressing experience. It’s natural for a parent to feel anger, confusion and
guilt. Some children are good at hiding their feelings and the first you may know of the problem is when your child suddenly doesn’t want to go to school, or says they are ill when PE lessons are on the agenda.
Pointers to a bullying problem
- Coming home with cuts and bruises
- Torn clothes
- Asking for stolen possessions to be replaced
- ‘Losing’ dinner money
- Falling out with previously good friends
- Being moody and bad tempered
- Wanting to avoid leaving the house
- Aggression with brothers and sisters
- Doing less well at schoolwork
- Being quiet and withdrawn
The worst thing to do is to over-react and storm into school demanding action. Bullying Online is regularly contacted by parents who have lost their temper and ended up banned from the premises or in trouble with the police.
Don’t forget that if you didn’t know your child was being bullied then the school may not have realised it either. The class teacher/head of year isn’t your child’s constant companion and isn’t a mind reader.
If you think your child is being bullied, but you’re not sure, then ask a few simple questions.
For a younger child:
- What did they do at school today?
- Did they do anything they liked?
- Did they do anything they didn’t like?
- Who did they play with?
- Are they looking forward to going to school tomorrow?
- What sort of games did they play?
- Did they enjoy them?
- Would they have liked to play different games with someone else?
- How are their friends?
For an older child:
- What did they do at lunchtime today?
- Is there anyone they’d like to invite home?
- Is there any lesson at school they don’t like and why?
- Is there anyone at school they don’t like and why?
- Are they looking forward to going to school tomorrow?
Are you being bullied?
It’s not you, it’s them
Although it’s hard to feel sorry for bullies, it might help to understand that happy people don’t need to make others feel unhappy or small. It’s the bullies who have a problem, not the people they target.
What to do
- Speak out. You have the right to live without being tormented. Keep a diary of what happens. It’ll help you decide what to do. It should also stop you missing out anything important and help show you’re telling the truth.
- If you’re being bullied through texts or phone calls, save messages and call records if you have space in your phone. If not, write down the time of the call/text, what was said/written and the caller/sender’s number if you have it. And don’t reply to any texts, it’s just what the bully wants.
- If you’re being bullied in a chartroom, don’t respond to nasty comments. Name and shame the bully: make it clear to everyone in the room who is bullying you so other users can support you. Good chatrooms are moderated, so email the moderators/hosts and complain, using examples from the chat.
Who should I tell?
As many people as you can. Sometimes just having things out in the open can be enough to make bullies stop. If it’s at school, any of your teachers should be able to help (your school should have an anti-bullying policy). If you can’t tell your teachers, ask a parent or another adult to speak to them for you.
Are you a bully?
Think you might be a bully? If you are, you’re probably making someone’s life hell and you need to stop. Find out if you’re a bully here. You can also get advice on how to stop it happening again…
Do you pick on anyone or push them around? Do you tease someone regularly? Or are you part of a group where this happens? Is it possible that someone has felt bullied by you or your friends?
But it’s just harmless teasing?…
Bullying ruins people’s lives. Every year around 16 children in the UK kill themselves after being bullied. Many others miss out on education because they can’t concentrate or they bunk off to keep away from the bullies. Even for those who survive bullying, the effects on their self-esteem, confidence and relationships with others can last for years.
What to do
People can change. You can choose what kind of person you want to be. Why do you feel the need to pick on people? Because someone does it to you? To make someone else look small so you can feel better about yourself? Or are you scared you’ll be the one getting bullied if you’re not the one dishing it out? You’ll feel much better if you deal with this stuff properly instead of taking it out on other people.
Don’t let it happen
Watching and doing nothing while someone gets bullied supports bullying. Have the courage to speak out and get help if you see it happening.
8 Effective actions Adults can take.
Bullying can be prevented and stopped if enough adults take action. Everyone deserves to feel emotionally and physically safe at school, at home and in the community. Here are eight effective People Safety actions from Kidpower that you can use to protect the young people in your life from bullying.
1. Address Bullying –It’s not Harmless
Bullying behaviour – whether it’s through threatening words or gestures, physically hurting, name-calling, mimicking, harassing, or shunning (isolating someone) – is a destructive force in the lives of too many kids.
Being the victim of a bully is an attack on a young person’s self esteem and joy in life. Being the bully allows a child to build behaviour that will be socially and professionally destructive later in life. Witnessing bullying creates an upsetting distracting environment in which to play and work and learn.
Potential bullies, victims and witnesses can learn to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive in dealing with problems that they experience directly or that they see happening.
2. Make Bullying Against the Rules
Make sure that your child’s school has a clear written Violence and Harassment Prevention Policy that everyone agrees to uphold. Pay attention when kids are acting upset with each other and take the lead in helping them develop skills for handling conflict.
Set an example for your children by not allowing people to bully you and by exercising the self-control necessary not to bully others. At home, work at stopping bullying behaviour with the same commitment with which you’d stop someone from throwing all the dishes on the floor and breaking them.
3. Teach Kids to Act Aware, Calm, and Confident
Bullies pick on kids who act scared, oblivious, or defensive. An alert, assertive attitude can help possible victims and witnesses stop most bullying before it starts.
4. Teach Kids Target Denial Skills
Target denial is an official martial arts technique that means, “Don’t be there!” Target denial means not giving a bully a physical advantage by
being too close. For example, kids can move away from someone who they know is a problem.
Target denial means not giving a bully an emotional handle. One technique is to leave by smiling and waving and saying cheerfully, “No, thanks!” very calmly and sincerely instead of acting scared or angry.
5. Teach Kids the Protective Power of Words
Kids tell us that trying to just ignore it when someone says something mean to them doesn’t really work. Stop serious name-calling with the same commitment you use when stopping serious hitting. Teach kids to protect themselves from hurtful words by imagining throwing them into a bin instead of taking them inside their hearts or their heads.
Teach kids not to let insults, rude behaviour, or guilt trips trigger them into feeling intimidated or emotionally coerced by a bully. Kids need to learn how not to let what others say or do control their choices. They also need to learn how not to behave in emotionally damaging ways towards others. Teach kids how to set clear strong verbal boundaries in a respectful assertive way with people they know.
6. Teach Kids to Defend Themselves Physically
To be effective in using other bully prevention tactics, kids need to know that they can protect themselves physically. As a last resort when they cannot leave or get help, kids need to know if, when and how they can hurt someone else to stop that person from hurting them.
7. Teach Kids to Get Help
Be someone your kids can come to with their problems without fear of you overreacting or belittling them, or lecturing or getting mad at them. Even if the issues they bring might seem trivial to you they’re big to your child.
Most of the time kids just need someone to listen so they won’t feel alone. Being able to talk about problems can help a child figure out what to do and put things into perspective – getting our kids into the habit of talking to us can also alert us to more serious issues.
8. Give Kids the Chance to Practice
Kids learn more by doing than by being told what to do. Programs such as Kidpower and Teenpower give kids the chance to develop skills that can change their lives in a few short hours. We also offer educational resources to prepare adults on how to present and practice these skills with their children.
What is the law on bullying in school?
Pupils have the right to be educated in an atmosphere which is free from fear. Head teachers and others responsible for running schools have a duty to do all that they reasonably can to protect pupils in their charge from intimidation, assault or harassment. This right and this duty are enshrined within documents such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the European Convention on Human Rights.
It should also be remembered that schools are subject to the law of the land. Assault, harassment and intimidation are offences, whatever the age of the perpetrator or victim.
When should matters be reported to the Police
The legal system is rarely involved in dealing with school bullying. There are very good reasons for this. Less serious bullying can and should be dealt with within the school. By working together, parents, teachers, pupils and other members of the wider school community develop effective reactive strategies which can be implemented quickly. It is most important that bullying is resolved as quickly as possible before any serious damage is done to the personal development or education of the young people involved.
However there may be circumstances in which the police are called in, either as a last resort or because of the seriousness of an incident. Anyone can make a complaint about bullying to the police. Teachers, parents or other members of a school community may decide to do so if:
- A bullying incident could have serious consequences for the victim – making a judgement about this can be very difficult because even Incidents which are perceived as being minor by an observer can have potentially serious long-term consequences for a victim
- Other strategies have failed or are considered to be inappropriate because of the seriousness of what hashappened and
- There is a reasonable possibility that making such a report could make the bullying less likely to recur and produce an outcome that helps the victim.
There may be occasions when an episode of bullying involves incidents both in and out of school. In such circumstances it is vital for teachers and parents to work in co-operation with the police and other appropriate agencies such as social services or youth organisations.
What can the Police Do?
Schools and the police are developing new ways of working together pro-actively to prevent bullying. For example, in 1991 Lothian and Borders Police helped schools in the Liberton area of Edinburgh to produce a pack entitled, Speak Up. More recently Grampian Police have produced a CD-ROM for schools entitled, Learning for Life.
The police will investigate reports of serious incidents of physical bullying or harassment. If they are satisfied that an offence has been committed and that a person or persons who may be responsible have been identified and are under 16 they will normally send a report to the Reporter to the Children’s Hearing. The Reporter will then decide whether or not to call a hearing to discuss the case. Sometimes a hearing will be called to discuss the welfare of a victim of bullying. This happened when one girl stopped attending school because she said she was so frightened of bullies at her school. The police may decide that there is insufficient evidence to justify a referral to the Reporter but officers may be able to help by speaking to the young people involved and to their families.
What are the advantages of taking legal action?
- Victims and their families ometimes feel that their concerns are not being treated seriously. Involving a solicitor can change this.
- A solicitor can provide support to individuals who may feel powerless against school authorities.
- A court decision in favour of a victim could help that person to come to terms with their experiences by ruling that the school did not act properly.
- The court may order that damages be paid as compensation for the harm suffered.
- A high profile court case can help to clarify the duty of schools to protect victims. This could make it less likely that others will suffer in the future.
Information for parents
If you believe your child is being bullied, you should:
- Talk to your child calmly about what is happening
- Reassure your child he or she has done the right thing by telling you about it
- Make a note of what your child tells you
- Encourage your child to report anything to the teacher
- Make an appointment to see your child’s class teacher or head teacher
What your child can do
If your child is being bullied telling a teacher, another trusted adult in school or family member is the right thing to do. Once a school knows what is happening, staff can act.
You should encourage your child to keep telling the school about anything that happens.
Bystanders who see bullying going on can make the biggest difference by doing something about it. If your child sees someone else being bullied telling a teacher, another trusted adult in school or family member is the right thing to do.
When you talk to teachers about bullying, you should:
- Stay calm – the teacher may not be aware your child is being bullied or may have heard conflicting accounts of an incident
- Be as specific as possible about what your child says has happened, using the notes you made
- Make a note of what the schools says and ask if there is anything you can do to help
- Stay in touch with the school and let staff know if things improve or problems continue.
Ultimately the responsibility for dealing with school bullying lies with the school. Parents should take the following steps, as necessary, if they are concerned:
Most bullying concerns can be resolved by your child’s class teacher or head teacher.
But if you are not happy you can:
- Ask to see the school’s anti-bullying policy – is the school doing what it says it will?
- Make an appointment to see a senior member of staff or the head teacher.
- Keep a record of that meeting If this does not help, write to the chair of governors explaining your concerns and outlining what you would like to see happen.
If you are still not happy, you can make a complaint under the school’s formal complaints policy.
Attacks by older pupils may result in cautions or prosecution, particularly if injury is involved.
It’s important not to take matters into your own hands and to confront the bully’s parents. This can lead to serious arguments. See your doctor Bullying UK receives up to three emails a day from children who are either suicidal now, or who have been in the past. Some of those pupils are receiving psychiatric or psychological help or counselling.
If your child is particularly unhappy then take him/her to the doctor so that his/her distress can be recorded and if appropriate, medication or counselling can be started. A letter from your doctor to the school, stressing the effect bullying is having on your child’s health can also be helpful. Some children self harm due to the stress of bullying and signs of this could be not wanting to wear short sleeved tops or preferring to wear trousers even in the hottest weather. Please be aware that there are a number of very dangerous self harm ‘advice’ websites on the internet and teenage girls in particular are at risk of being targeted by adults in them.
If bullying continues:
- Keep a diary of what your child says is happening
- Write a note to the class teacher or head of year, explaining that the problem is still unresolved
- Suggest that contact between the bully and your child is monitored and limited, perhaps by the bully moving to another table or set
- Or get your child to keep his/her own diary
- Ask for your letter to be put onto your child’s school file, together with a note of action taken
- 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. Putting a complaint in writing is essential so that there is a record of your concern.
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.
Schools have a variety of sanctions they can use including:
- A warning
- Calling the bully’s parents in to school
- Internal exclusion 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. Make notes of the points you want to make beforehand and be firm and polite. Don’t get into an argument.
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.
Complaining to the police if your child has been assaulted at school then make a complaint to the police. Police forces in the UK have school liaison officers who are experienced at dealing with school-related issues.
The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales in 10 and if the attacker is younger than this then you will probably not find that the police will be able to do anything. However, they are often very good at warning bullies off in front of their parents.
Warning of prosecution
If your child is taking time off school you’re likely to be warned you may face prosecution unless you are teaching him/her at home. Unfair though it may be, keeping a child at home due to bullying is considered to be an unauthorised absence.
You need to make sure you put complaints in writing to the head, governors and LEA in an attempt to sort the problem out.
Children staying at home in these cases are regarded as truants or an unauthorised absence and there has been a well-publicised case where a mother was jailed.
It’s wise, when your child is so stressed by bullying, and so frightened that they can’t face school, to telephone the LEA education welfare officer (sometimes called an education social worker) to explain the situation and to ask him/her to intervene with the school to get the bullying stopped. The education welfare officer’s role is to ensure that children do attend school and they normally step in when a school alerts them that a child has been absent for a short period of time but if you feel your child may stop going to school then ask their advice straight away.
Fortunately, most schools now take their responsibilities over bullying very seriously, all state schools are supposed to have bullying policies by law. Ask for a copy of that policy and see whether it contains anything to help you to resolve the problem. For instance, it may lay down a procedure to be followed over complaints and explain how those complaints will be treated. Make a note of the way in which your complaints have been dealt with and how they differ from the way they are supposed to be dealt with in the policy.
Nottingham ABS team
The ABS Team works with other teams and services within Children’s Services, other parts of the Local Authority, and other agencies, e.g. Nottinghamshire Police, Nottinghamshire Children’s Services, NSPCC, Mencap, voluntary agencies, etc, etc.
ABS Team Leader
ABS Team Officer
ABS Team Administrative Assistant
The Glenbrook Management Centre
(0115) 91 58902
(0115) 91 58920
Shudokan Black Belt Academy – Against bullying