Preventing and tackling bullying

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Bullying is deliberately hurtful behaviour that is repeated over a period of time. This could be:

  • Name calling and teasing
  • Threats and extortion
  • Physical violence
  • Social exclusion
  • Spreading malicious rumours

Bullying does not just happen face to face. Sometimes bullying can happen through the internet or mobile phones.


Further information

 Racist bullying

A person is targeted for their affinity to a group. Racist bullying hurts not only the intended victim but also their family and friends. Incidents can include:

  • Verbal abuse – name calling, racist jokes or offensive mimicry
  • Physical threats or attacks
  • Wearing provocative badges or insignia
  • Racist literature or songs
  • Racist graffiti
  • Name calling, derogatory assumptions or generalisations about race, culture or religion

Homophobic bullying

This is the unfounded fear or hatred of people on the assumption that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. It can also include the unfounded fear or hatred of transgender people. It is a particular type of bullying which is related to a person’s sexuality or assumed sexuality. Homophobic insults are common within the playground and can socially exclude people leaving them in fear of attack or ridicule. Incidents can include:

  • Looks and comments about appearance or physical development
  • Abusive name calling about the person or relation or friend
  • Sexual innuendos and propositions
  • Gestures and mimicking
  • Pornographic picture or graffiti
  • Rumour spreading
  • Isolating and excluding from social groups


Mobile, internet and wireless technologies have increased the pace of communication and brought benefits to users worldwide. But their popularity provides increasing opportunity for misuse through cyber bullying.

Research commissioned by the Anti Bullying Alliance identifies seven categories of cyberbullying:

  • Text message bullying – involves sending unwelcome texts that are threatening or cause discomfort
  • Picture/video clip bullying via mobile phone cameras – used to make the person being bullied feel threatened or embarrassed, with images usually sent to other people
  • Phone call bullying via mobile phone – uses silent calls or abusive messages. Sometimes the bullied person’s phone is stolen and used to harass others, who then think the phone owner is responsible. As with all other mobile phone bullying, perpetrators often disguise their numbers
  • Email bullying – makes use of email to send bullying or threatening messages, often with an invented pseudonym or using someone else’s name to pin the blame on them
  • Chat room bullying – involves sending menacing or upsetting responses to children/young people when they are in a web based chat room
  • Bullying though instant messaging – is an internet based form of bullying where children and young people can be sent unpleasant messages as they conduct real time conversations online
  • Bullying via websites – includes the defamatory web logs (blogs), personal websites, online personal polling sites or social networking sites

Other examples of bullying

  • Physical aggression – hitting, kicking, tripping up, spitting, taking or damaging property, use of threats or force in any way, intimidation or demands for money or goods
  • Verbal – name calling, insulting, teasing, jokes, mockery, taunting, gossip, secrets, threat or reference to upsetting events
  • Non verbal – staring, body language, gestures or posturing
  • Indirect – excluding, ostracising, rumours and stories, emails, chat rooms, messaging, phones, notes, texts, rude gestures or faces
  • Sexual – touching repeated exhibition, voyeurism, sexual propositioning, or verbal personal comment
  • Disability intolerance – name calling, exclusion, taking over for a person, mimicking, physical overpowering, or laughing at difficulty

If you think your child is being bullied then you may spot some of the following signs:

  • Sleep or appetite problems
  • Behaviour changes, for example tantrums or thumb sucking
  • Bed wetting or soiling
  • Withdrawn, moody, clingy, aggressive, uncooperative, or non communicative
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Aches, pains, cuts, bruises without adequate explanation
  • Complaints about illness especially in the morning
  • Stealing money or small things
  • Requesting money for no acceptable reason
  • Missing the school bus on purpose or leaving late for school
  • Getting detention
  • Dropping activities
  • Best friends no longer calling
  • Seeming upset or moody when using computer chat rooms
  • Demanding designer clothes or the latest mobile
  • Asking to change school
  • Clothes ripped, dirty or missing
  • Arriving home hungry
  • School work deteriorating

It is important to remember that there could be a number of reasons for this behaviour. So you need to ask yourself:

  • Could there be anything else bothering your child?
  • Are there any changes in your family life such as a new baby, divorce or separation?

Any discussion with your child needs to be handled sensitively so that you can get a clear picture of what is happening.

  • Contact your child’s school as soon as possible to arrange an appointment to meet with his or her teacher or form tutor
  • Always try to be calm. The school will be keen to resolve the problem but it may be that they were not aware that there is a problem. In some cases the causes may be very complicated
  • Be as clear as possible about what your child says has happened – give dates, places and names of others involved
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to help your child or the school
  • Ask to see the school’s anti-bullying procedure
  • Make a note of what action the school intends to take
  • Stay in touch with the school and let them know if the problem continues or if things improve

Part of this process may involve the fact that your own child may need to change aspects of his or her behaviour. This is nothing to worry about. Schools need to ensure that the plans they put in place help your child to feel safe and your child will have to take some responsibility for ensuring that this happens.

All schools are required to have anti bullying procedures. If you have any concerns about bullying you should contact the anti-bullying co-ordinator at the school for assistance. Once the school is aware of a problem it is very likely that they will be able to deal with it effectively.

If you have followed the advice on these pages and you are still worried, you may wish to make an appointment to discuss your concerns with the Headteacher.

If you feel that the school has not responded appropriately to your concerns you may need to make a formal complaint to the school. You can do this by using the school’s complaints procedure.

Reporting bullying at school

Some children may be involved in bullying other children at one time or another. In fact, some children who are bullied, either at school or elsewhere, also bully other children. Parents and carers are often not aware that their child is involved in bullying others.

  • Don’t panic. The school will want to work with you in a supportive way to change your child’s behaviour.
  • Don’t think your child is dreadful. He or she is exhibiting some anti-social behaviour at the moment, but this can be corrected if everyone works together.
  • Be prepared to listen to the school and accept their advice.
  • Talk to your child and explain that what he or she is doing is not acceptable and is making other children very unhappy.
  • Discourage other members of your family from ever using bullying behaviour or from being aggressive to get what they want.
  • Show your child how he or she can join in with other children without bullying.
  • Make an appointment to see your child’s class teacher or form tutor to explain how you can work together to stop your child from bullying other children.

It is very important to work closely with the school. Regularly ask your child how things are at school. Give your child lots of praise and encouragement when he or she is co-operative or kind to other people.

Parents, carers and families have an important role to play in helping schools to deal with bullying. You should:

  • Discourage your child from using bullying behaviour at home or elsewhere.
  • Take an active interest in your child’s school life, discuss friendships, how playtime is spent and the journey to and from school.
  • Watch out for signs that your child is being bullied or is bullying others (parents, carers and families are often the first to notice a problem).
  • Contact the school at the first sign if you are worried that your child is being bullied or is bullying others.