Bullying - advice for teachers

By law, all public schools must have a behaviour policy in place, which will include measures to prevent all forms of school bullying among students. The policy will be decided by the school and is shared with all teachers, students and parents. Schools in England and Wales must also follow an anti-discrimination law, meaning that all staff must act to prevent discrimination, victimisation and harassment within the school. Find more information about school policy requirements on the gov.uk site.

As a teacher, it can be very difficult to know how to handle a bullying-related situation. What do you do if a pupil comes to you asking for help? What if they haven’t asked for help, but you have witnessed it? What if you have seen nothing but have noticed a change in behaviour and are worried about the child?

Children spend most of their youth in education and if they are getting bullied, it can have a detrimental effect on their studies, health and happiness. They may not tell their parents what is going on, but if they are going through a tough time, they may turn to you - the teacher - for support.

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Spotting the signs

A recent study from Anti-Bullying Alliance stated that 'the equivalent of one child in every classroom (4%) said they were being bullied face to face or online every day,' so it's important as a teacher to recognise the signs of a child suffering. School bullying will affect children in different ways. Children may not want to talk about what they are going through, so it can be difficult to know if there is a problem. 

If a child is being bullied, you may notice a change in behaviour, such as:

  • change in performance
  • easily upset
  • more prone to argue
  • becoming less social
  • increased number of sick days
  • staying behind or leaving early

Tips for teachers

Make sure your students know how to report bullying and who to speak to

Options for support should be known and information should be clear and accessible. Students need to know who to talk to so they feel confident in seeking help. Similarly, all school staff should be well-trained in the different forms of bullying a student may experience.

Have a clear definition of bullying

While there is no legal definition of bullying, the different forms of bullying should be understood and publicised. Students need to understand what is unacceptable behaviour and the consequences that can occur. Students also need to know what the school considers ‘bullying’ so they feel confident in reporting it. If they feel they are being bullied, they should not be told otherwise. Talk to them and together you can find a solution.

Ask the student what they want to do

It’s important that the child has a say in the actions taken. Children often fear what might happen if they report bullying, which is why they often stay quiet. They don’t want to risk making the bully angry and making the situation worse. As a teacher, you need to listen.

Be clear on your response to bullying

The school’s anti-bullying policy should provide clear information on how any form of bullying will be dealt with. You need to challenge the bullying behaviour and make sure it will not continue afterwards. With every incident of bullying, it is important to consider the whole school community and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Continue to communicate

Long after the incident is resolved, continue to keep in contact. Regular communication with the children and parents involved will help you understand whether the situation was dealt with correctly and if any further action needs to be taken.

If you are a parent and are worried about your child, you can find more information about spotting the signs and what to do on our dedicated advice for parents fact-sheet.

Further help

If you feel your school’s anti-bullying policy is lacking information, there are plenty of useful websites that can help you, such as BullyingUK. Continue to learn and understand the methods that help and how you can support your students, and pitch your ideas to the school. Unfortunately, bullying is still happening and if an issue is ignored, it can affect a person later in life.

Page last reviewed: 08/11/18

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