How to spot and handle bullying at school.

Al Chester, resident counsellor, Al Chester shares views about how to spot and handle bullying at school.

I’m sharing with you my top tips in handling this sensitive issue with your child, their school and teachers. I’ll also explain what you can expect schools to be doing to help address any such behaviour. Media reports consequences of bullying on daily basis. Countless suicides by young people who see no alternative.

What is bullying?

This may seem an obvious question, but it’s important to understand the behavior before attaching the bullying label. Bullying is:
  • Carried out by an individual or group
  • Deliberate behavior with the intention of hurting
  • Sustained over a period of time
  • An imbalance of power

How does it take place?

I can recall the days when bullying was something we often accepted as part of growing up. Back then, bullying would take place in the school playground, or classroom and involved name-calling or a bit of roughing up. The one positive I could take from this was I could get some rest-bite from it in the comfort of my home at the end of each day.  This is no longer the case. Social media is an essential part of every-day life, bullying penetrates the safest of havens. Cyber bullying is the term used to carry out bullying via online technology and means there is no escape and could explain the rising number of bullying-related suicides amongst children and young people.


With the emergence of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, it has become easier, quicker and more direct to pick on others. It’s also able to be broadcast to a much larger audience. TeenSafe report that in 2015 34% of of children had faced cyber bullying at some point in their lives and a worrying 87% had witnessed it.


Huge shame  is attached to being bullied. Feeling weak and thinking it’s my fault. Not surprisingly children and young people find it difficult to recognise and admit when they’re being bullied. There are signs to look out for though if concerned:
  • Emotional
    • Constant anxiety or nervousness
    • Tearfulness for no apparent reason
    • Lack of confidence and negative self image
  • Behavioural
    • Self-harm
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Under-achieving at school or college
    • Being disruptive and challenging at school
    • Lashing out and being defensive

Dos and don’ts

Things you can do to help the situation, and what NOT to do;
  • Try and get your child’s consent before acting on anything
    • Collate evidence and take screenshots of any cyber-bullying. Add emails, text messages, photos of damaged property, scars or bruises along with dates and times.
    • Don’t try to sort out the bullying yourself by approaching the bullies – this makes things much worse for the victim
    • If the bullying is occurring outside of school then consult your local police
    • Ensure that you have the most secure privacy settings on all social networks
    • Be careful with what material your child shares online.
    • Be mindful of trying to sort it out yourself with the perpetrators’ parents. No matter how good your relationships might be, it can often lead to a break-down in relationships

Dealing with the school

All schools have an obligation to protect pupils and must have an anti-bullying policy by law. Dealing with bullying can be frustrating and emotionally draining. Following these steps can help alleviate some of the stress.
  • Approach the school with your concerns, either a class tutor or head of year. The teacher should take action to help resolve or monitor the situation.  Also, ask for a copy of their anti-bullying policy.
  • If you’re unhappy, then make a formal complaint. Detail all your concerns in writing to the school’s complaints officer. You should expect acknowledgement of this within 3-5 days. You will be notified of any further progress or actions taken within 20 days of your complaint.
  • If you’re still unhappy with the outcome you can escalate your complaint to the head teacher. The school  will write to you and detail their reasoning for the action taken and what else they plan to do to seek a resolution.
  • In the rare event you’re still dissatisfied, you should write a complaint to the schools governing body. The Governors considers your case and make a decision on what to do. Make sure you detail everything that you are complaining about and the way your complaint has been handled. The governing body will not involve with your case prior to this.

Local Authorities

You can also escalate your complaint to the school’s local authority or the Director of Education. In the event of this you can also expect a report back of recommendations, usually within 20 days. If you’re unhappy and have exhausted all avenues then you can try approaching the Secretary of State for Education and skills, Ofsted or the local Government Ombudsmen:

Legal stuff

Further information and support:

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