Bullying can happen to anyone, at any age and can take place at school, online, in the street or at home – there literally is no escape. Bullying is a behaviour which can be defined as ‘a repeated attack – physical, psychological, social or verbal by nature – by those in a position of power which is formally or situationally defined, with the intention of causing distress for their own gratificaion’ (Besag, 1989)
Being bullied is strongly related to mental ill-health as found in recent research by the Office of National Statistics. Their Children’s Well-Being 2015 report revealed a number of findings that provide an insight into mental health problems in children that can affect their overall wellbeing in both the immediate and longer-term.
Schools in England have a legal duty to ensure the safety of all children and young people and to prevent all forms of bullying. Head teachers also have powers to respond to bullying outside of school premises, and to search for and confiscate items that may have been used to bully or intimidate (The Education and Inspections Act 2006: The Education Act 2011).
The Department for Education have produced:
- Preventing and Tackling Bullying which provides advice for Headteachers, staff and governing bodies;
- Supporting Bullied Children which is a factsheet for all school staff;
- Cyber bullying: advice for Headteachers and school staff; and
- Advice for Parents and Carers on Cyberbullying Although bullying in itself is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, it is important to bear in mind that some types of harassing or threatening behaviour – or communications – could be a criminal offence, for example under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Communications Act 2003, and the Public Order Act 1986.
- 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’. Where this is the case, the school staff should report their concerns to their local authority children’s social care. Even where safeguarding is not considered to be an issue, schools may need to draw on a range of external services to support the pupil who is experiencing bullying, or to tackle any underlying issue which has contributed to a child engaging in bullying.