Preventing and Tackling Bullying: Advice for Headteachers, Staff and Governing Bodies

Leicester City Bullying Guidance

Leicestershire and Rutland - Keep safe on your computer and mobile phone


E-Safety: Children Exposed to Abuse through the Digital Media Procedure


In September 2022 in Section 1, Definition information was added in line with the Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted) and the definition of sexting was expanded to include taking and distributing nude or semi-nude images.

1. Definition

Bullying is defined as "behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, which intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally" (DfE definition - Preventing and Tackling Bullying: Advice for Headteachers, Staff and Governing Bodies).

Anyone has the potential to be a target or perpetrator of bullying. The four main types of bullying are:

  • Physical – such as, hitting, kicking, shoving, theft;
  • Verbal – such as, threats, name calling, shouts of abuse or insults, using threatening language;
  • Emotional – such as, spreading rumours, being excluded from groups, intimidation;
  • Cyber-bullying – such as nasty text messages, emails, phone calls, via social media and the wider use of technology;
  • Sexual Violence – refers to offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003:
    • Rape: intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person, using the penis, without consent;
    • Assault by penetration: intentional penetration of the vagina or anus of another person using a body part (other than the penis), or other object, without consent;
    • Sexual assault: intentionally touching another person sexually, without consent.
  • Sexual Harassment - ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ that can occur online and offline
  • Upskirting - typically involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, It is now a criminal offence.

    The Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted) also recognised a wide variety of behaviours that children and young people told (them) happened online including:
    • Receiving unsolicited explicit photographs or videos, for example 'dick pics';
    • Sending, or being pressured to send, nude and semi-nude photographs or videos ('nudes');
    • Being sent or shown solicited or unsolicited online explicit material, such as pornographic videos.

Note:- Sexting is a term which many young people do not recognise or use, therefore it is important that when discussing the risks of this type of behaviour with children and young people the behaviour is accurately explained Sexting (some children and young people consider this to mean ‘writing and sharing explicit messages with people they know’ rather than sharing youth-produced sexual images) or sharing nudes and semi-nudes are terms used when a person under the age of 18 shares sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others or sends sexually explicit messages.

Bullying can be fuelled by prejudice based on any of the following:

  • Race (racist bullying);
  • Religion or belief;
  • Culture or class;
  • Gender (sexist bullying);
  • Sexual orientation (homophobic or biphobic bullying);
  • Gender identity (transphobic bullying);
  • Special educational needs or disability (SEND);
  • Appearance or health conditions;
  • Related to another vulnerable group of people.

Bullying is not when two people have a disagreement or fall out; it is ‘the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.’ (Anti-Bullying Alliance) Such abuses of power, if left unchallenged, can lead to more serious forms of abuse, such as domestic violence, racial attacks, sexual offences and self-harm or suicide.

Schools have a duty of care to protect all its members and provide a safe learning environment. This is a legal requirement under:

The Education and Inspection Act 2006

Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides that maintained schools must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils.

Children’s Act 1989

Under the Children Act 1989 a bullying incident should be addressed as a child protection concern when there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’. Some acts of bullying may be a criminal offence. Consideration should be given as to whether there should be a referral to the Police.

3. The Child

3.1 The Target

The damage inflicted by bullying can often be underestimated. It can cause considerable distress to children, to the extent that it affects their health and development or, at the extreme, causes depression and self-harm.

Children may be held back from telling anyone about their experience either by threats or by a feeling that nothing can change their situation.

Parents, carers and agencies need to be aware of the possible signs of bullying and any changes in behaviour such as:

  • Refusing to attend school or a particular place or activity;
  • Becoming anxious;
  • Becoming withdrawn and isolated;
  • Change in behaviour relating to internet use;
  • Damage to property or belongings going missing;
  • Increased complaints of physical illness.

Bullying should be taken seriously and a child offered support and reassurance that it is not their fault. Further advice is available from:

www.beyondbullying.com (Leicestershire County Council)

Leicester City Council website, Bullying and harassment (Leicester City Council)

Healthforteens and Rutland Information Service (Rutland County Council)

3.2 The Perpetrator

It is unhelpful to label a child as a bully; the focus needs to be on supporting a change in their behaviour and identifying any wider support needs that the child may have.

It is important to recognise that children who bully may have significant needs themselves or be in need of therapeutic interventions.

4. Action and Prevention

All schools and settings providing services for children should have an anti-bullying policy which explains their position around bullying and the proactive and reactive strategies that are in place.

Key points to include in an anti-bullying policy are:

  • A position statement;
  • Lead staff members;
  • A definition of bullying;
  • The different types & forms of bullying;
  • The role of bystanders;
  • Reporting and recording procedures;
  • How incidents will be responded to, monitored and reviewed;
  • Communication with parents/carers;
  • Proactive strategies (what is done to prevent bullying occurring).

Whatever plan of action is implemented after issues have been identified, the plan must be reviewed with regular intervals and amended if necessary to ensure that the bullying has ceased.

It is important to include all members of the community (school or other setting) in the policy development or review.

In order to maintain an effective strategy for dealing with bullying, staff should be provided with appropriate training to ensure that they have the skills and confidence to recognise and respond to incidents of bullying: and to create an environment where children and young people feel safe to report incidents.

5. Useful Links

Further sources of Information (DfE Guidance)

Departmental advice and guidance you may be interested in:

Behaviour and discipline in schools (DfE)

School Support For Children And Young People Who Are Bullied (DfE)

Keeping Children Safe in Education

Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges

Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted)

Sharing nudes and semi-nudes: advice for education settings working with children and young people

Legislative Links

Schools’ duty to promote good behaviour: Education and Inspections Act 2006 and Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010: Power to tackle poor behaviour outside school.

The Equality Act 2010

Schools (and other settings) must ensure that they have an anti-bullying policy which clearly outlines what bullying is and what young people, parents and carers can expect from the setting in response to reports of bullying. Managers/Head Teachers/Team leaders should ensure that all staff have received training on all aspects of the anti-bullying policy.

Specialist Organisations