6 min readDealing with bullying and how to create a culture of safety in schoolsposted 18 days ago

Anti-Bullying Week 2022 is coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance and is held from November 14th- until the 18th. The theme this year is “Reach Out.”

In 2021, 80% of schools marked the week, reaching over 7.5 million children and young people. The campaign exists to remind everyone to “reach out and show each other the support we need.”

“Friendship Friday” will also take place on Friday 18th November to provide further opportunities to celebrate friendship and promote positive relationships. 

The Anti-Bullying Alliance definition states that “Bullying is the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online.”

Bullying can take many forms and can be detrimental in many ways to a child’s physical health, well-being, and mental health. Some examples of why a child may experience bullying can be because of their race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, shyness, disability, home life, family, values, clothing, or even because their bully is jealous of their success or appearance etc. We know that it can also have a lasting impact on some children into adulthood.

Bullying can happen anywhere such as in school, outside of school, and online. It is essential that professionals and parents/carers understand how to recognise and respond to bullying and of course ensure they always encourage children to raise their hand and tell someone if they are a victim.

Some examples of different types of bullying include:

  1. Physical: hitting, pushing, slapping, punching, scratching someone.
  2. Verbal: spreading rumours, name-calling, threats and gossiping about someone.
  3. Non-verbal: such as using gestures, passing notes, or making hand signs.
  4. Emotional: intimation, threats, constant criticism, and humiliation.
  5. Control and manipulation: using verbal and non-verbal techniques to control or manipulate someone.
  6. Baiting: goading someone to react or be angry.
  7. Cyberbullying: any online system used to bully someone, such as gaming chat rooms, social media, text messages and instant messaging, online shaming, sending explicit messages, and pressuring others into sending sexual content.
  8. Online challenges: encouraging others to self-harm.
  9. Fake accounts: falsifying or creating fake accounts to steal someone’s identity or attempt to humiliate or embarrass them.
  10. Groups: setting up groups to discuss or bully a child.
  11. Exclusion: being excluded and ignored from peers or scenarios.
  12. Hate crime: It is a hate crime if someone is bullied because of their race, disability, and sexuality.

The Impact of bullying

When children experience bullying, it can have a significant impact on their self-esteem, confidence, well-being, and mental health. Bullying can cause a child to self-injure or harm themselves, and in some cases has driven children to experience suicidal ideation and even in the worst circumstances, to take their own life.

Children may also experience loneliness, feel left out of peer or friendship groups, and struggle with their education and attendance. They may also find it hard to trust others as a result of this which can impact personal relationships.

Signs and symptoms you should look out for:

  1. A child may suddenly appear to be isolating themselves or you may have witnessed them being left out or playing/spending lunchtime alone.
  2. Being told or overhearing rumours that are going around school about a particular student.
  3. Repeated occasions where a student has lost belongings.
  4. Witnessing or observing bruising or physical marks on a child.
  5. Witnessing or being informed about behavioural changes, outbursts or introvert behaviours, changes in a student’s demeanour, well-being, or achievement/attendance levels.
  6. Repeated occasions where a student has been accused of or known to be stealing things from others.

Building a culture of safety to prevent bullying

A whole-school approach is the most effective way to ensure that students are safe from bullying. This also includes adhering to robust anti-bullying, anti-harassment, equality diversity, and inclusion, code of conduct, student behaviour, and safeguarding and wellbeing policy and procedures. Schools should assess their approaches to bullying, violent conduct, harassment, the use of derogatory language, discriminatory behaviour, and most importantly what response and action are taken and when.

Schools should aim to:

  1. Provide a supportive environment whereby students and their parents/carers can reach out if they are experiencing bullying or abuse. 
  2. Enrich the experiences of all students through the promotion of a zero-tolerance stance to bullying, promoting mutual respect, tolerance, and a supportive culture of wellbeing.
  3. Create awareness through assemblies, events, policies, and procedures.
  4. Ensure all employees at all levels throughout the school are working together and in support of the right culture that they are to foster within the school.
  5. Ensure that there is a clear process for reporting issues or concerns or seeking support and that everyone is aware of it.
  6. Increase awareness and understanding of bullying issues.
  7. Be responsive to the early warning signs.
  8. Provide education, guidance, and support to employees that are supporting students.
  9. Be responsive to students and siblings that are identified to be affected directly and indirectly by bullying issues or incidents.
  10. Provide support to parents and families of students that are or have experienced bullying.

If a child is being bullied, you may advise them to:

  1. Block the bully on social media, email, and instant messaging accounts.
  2. Report cyberbullies to their internet service provider, mobile phone provider (if bullying is via texts or calls) or social media site/app.
  3. Protect passwords.
  4. Do not reply or react, this can sometimes mean playing into the hands of the bully.
  5. Practise standing up for themselves.
  6. Talk to friends, family members or other trusted individuals about what is happening and how they may be feeling.
  7. Keep evidence of the bullying.
  8. Report serious bullying such as threats of physical harm or abuse, to the school or police.

Other options include dedicated charities such as Kidscape, which are a leading Anti-Bullying charity in the UK that has some extremely useful resources that can support children, parents, carers, and professionals with bullying issues. Kidscape provides practical support to children and families that are impacted by bullying through interactive workshops, therapeutic support, and the parent advice line. They also deliver high-impact training programmes to schools, sports clubs, community groups and professionals. For further information and supporting documents please click on the links below:

https://www.kidscape.org.uk/ 

https://www.kidscape.org.uk/media/134290/top-tips-for-children_final.pdf 

https://www.kidscape.org.uk/advice/ 

Additional support services:

The Anti-Bullying Alliance: https://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/anti-bullying-week 

The National Bullying Helpline: 0300 323 0169 https://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/contact.html

Report Hate Crime: Police-101 https://www.gov.uk/report-hate-crime

Think U Know (Online Sexual Abuse): https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/ 

ChildLine (Online Abuse): https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/online-mobile-safety/remove-nude-image-shared-online/ 

MIND Charity: 0300 123 3393    https://www.mind.org.uk/

Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774    https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

PAPYRUS: 0800 068 4141     https://www.papyrus-uk.org/

NSPCC: 0808 800 5000     https://www.nspcc.org.uk/ 

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Rachael Bishop

Rachael Bishop

Rachael has over 18 years of experience, paired with an extensive training record within the safeguarding field.