Bullying is when someone is deliberately hurtful to someone over a period of time. The person being bullied usually finds it difficult to defend themselves. There are different types of bullying, but these are the main ones:
- physical: hitting, kicking, taking belongings
- verbal: name calling, insulting, making offensive remarks
- indirect: spreading nasty rumours about someone, not including them in social groups
- cyberbullying – bullying via the internet and mobile phones
Worried your child is being bullied?
Bullying is a serious problem and can be very upsetting for both you and your child. Children may find it hard to talk about being bullied or bullying others. You may not be sure that your child is being bullied, but there are some signs that may suggest there is a problem. Look out for:
- excuses to miss school, such as stomach complaints or headaches (or your child may be skipping school altogether)
- torn clothes, school things that are missing or broken or lost money
- more bruises or scrapes than usual
- signs of stress - being moody/silent or crying, or bullying a younger sibling or friend
- bed wetting (usually in younger children)
- a change in eating habits.
There could be other reasons for these symptoms, so don't jump to conclusions. Is there anything else bothering your child? Have there been changes in your family like a new baby, a divorce or separation? Talk to your child and listen to what is worrying them.
Bullying at school
Research shows that most bullying takes place at school. Schools want to tackle bullying and to work with parents to do this. If you are worried that your child is being bullied at school, the first person to talk to you is your child’s class or form teacher.
In serious incidents, for example when your child has been assaulted, you may need to think about contacting the police as well as contacting the school.
If the bullying continues and you are not satisfied with the teacher’s response, move on to the year head (secondary school), deputy head or headteacher. Ask for everyone to work together to sort things out and arrange a meeting.
Arranging a meeting
Arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher or a senior teacher to discuss what can be done. Schools should be able to give you a date for a meeting within a few days even if the meeting can’t take place straight away.
Prepare and research
Remember to reassure your child that they have done the right thing by telling you. Before the meeting you should research and request to see key policies.
Ask to see a copy of the school's anti-bullying policy or behaviour policy. You can view this in school or offer to cover the cost to photocopy.
Ask your child or help your child to keep a record of all bullying incidents with names of children/ young people/ adults present, times, dates, location.
Ask your child if they told anyone in school? Who was it and what was your child told would be done about it?
Attending the meeting
Ask how the school implements the anti-bullying policy and/ or behaviour policy and how they can ensure your child's safety in school and what support is in place.
Request that any adults that the child has told about the bullying are present at the meeting. Agree all actions with timescales, with reference to feedback given.
If you are unhappy with any of the suggestions the school make e.g. moving your child to elsewhere in the school or keeping them in during playtime to avoid the bullies, explain that this might make your child feel as though they are being punished or it is their fault.
Keep a record of all communication including telephone conversations and meetings with dates and times. You could take someone with you to make notes. You could also ask the school to provide minutes.
Contacting the headteacher
Ask for a meeting with the headteacher. Take all the paperwork you have with your records of what has happened and what had been agreed with you. Agree what further action will be taken actions with timescales.
When any or all of the above has failed to improve the situation, you can write to the headteacher stating you are still unhappy and copy it to the school's governing body.
If you are still not satisfied, you need to follow the complaints procedure of your school. Ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. The first step would be to write a letter of complaint to the headteacher. For an example of what to include in a letter to school, see bullying at school letter on educationletters.co.uk. See our complaints about schools page for further guidance.
If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of your complaint you should write to the chair of governors with a copy of the original letter.
If you have followed the school’s complaints procedure and are still unsatisfied, you can contact us for further support. Schools and governing bodies manage their own complaints and are not legally accountable to the local authority, but the we wish to help schools and parents to resolve bullying concerns in the best interests of the young person concerned. You can contact using the details on the right.
Different types of bullying including links to local and national support
Cyberbullying – bullying via the internet or mobile phone
As children and young people are using the internet increasingly this has led to an increase in cyberbullying. Young people rely on their phones and the Internet to chat and stay in touch with their friends and need to be aware of how to stay safe. Parents can help by understanding the risks and supporting their children. There is lots of good advice online to help parents/carers support their children. You can find more in our Internet safety section
Bullying relating to prejudice and difference
Equality Act 2010
Schools, like other public bodies, must have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation and promote equality of opportunity
Schools are required to publish information showing how they comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty and to set equality objectives. They need to update the published information annually and publish objectives at least once every four years. For further information about schools duties in this area please visit www.education.gov.uk.
Many children and adults are bullied because they are seen to be 'different'. This is referred to as prejudice-related bullying. It may be that your child is seen as different because of their race, religion or culture, sexuality, gender or because of any special educational needs or disabilities they may have. Please find further information in the relevant section and in the general advice about dealing with bullying.
Some children are singled out and bullied because they are overweight, affluent, deprived, in care or young carers themselves, or for a variety of other reasons. Sometimes the person bullying cannot even explain the reasons - they just perceive their target as 'different'. General advice about dealing with bullying applies in this area.
Special Educational Needs or disabilities
Unfortunately children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or disabilities can sometimes be a target for bullying.
If your child has SEN or a disability, the school should take that into account when considering how to deal with an incident. In the first instance, as with any concern about bullying, talk to the school and outline your concerns. If you want more information on this area, this website provides very comprehensive information including links to relevant helplines.
Any young person can experience homophobic bullying and if your child is targeted, this does not mean that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Homophobic bullying may be aimed at children and young people who are perceived as “different” and who don’t fit gender stereotypes. If you want more information on this area, this website provides comprehensive information.
Bullying related to race, religion or culture
Britain is a multi-racial and multi-faith country and everyone has the right to have their culture and religion respected by others. Nobody has the right to call your child names or to treat them badly because of their colour, race or religion. Racist bullying is not just about the colour of your skin, it can be about your ethnic background or religion too. The national family lives website provides helpful information on racist bullying.
Local support services
SENDIASS provide free and impartial information, support and advice to parents of children with special education needs and disabilities (ages 0-25). See our SENDIASS pages.
Family Information Service
Oxfordshire Family Information Service provides a broad range of information to help parents and carers support their children (ages 0-20) including information on locally-available parenting support. Contact them
SAFE! Support for Young People Affected by Crime is a local charity which provides free, individually tailored support (up to 6 sessions) for young people who have been victims of crime and bullying who are finding it hard to recover their sense of safety and confidence. For further information about the support SAFE! offers including how to refer please visit www.safeproject.org.uk.
If you are concerned that bullying is having a serious effect on your child’s wellbeing then speak to your GP or health visitor who will refer you on to the appropriate services.
Primary Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (PCAMHS)
PCAMHS (Primary Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) is a service for children and young people under the age of 18 to help with behavioural, emotional and mental health issues.
They offer between 1 and 6 sessions and aim to work with children, young people and their families at the earliest opportunity to make sure problems don’t get worse. Referrals, with the consent of a parent/carer and their child, can be made by any professional working with them (GP, health visitor, social worker, teacher etc).
National support – helplines and links
Family Lives gives advice to help you support your child, work with your child’s school and what to do if you have problems trying to sort things out. They have comprehensive web pages with on dealing with bullying generally.
- Advice for parents
- What to do about bullying out of school hours
- What to do if your child is a bully
You can also phone Family Lives for free, confidential advice on anything to do with being a parent, including bullying, 24 hours a day. Visit their website for further information.
Children's Legal Centre
The Children's Legal Centre provides free legal advice on all aspects of the law affecting children and young people including bullying. Visit www.childrenslegalcentre.com.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA): Founded in 2002 by NSPCC and National Children's Bureau, the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) brings together over 100 organisations into one network to develop and share good practice across the whole range of bullying issues. They have information and advice for both parents/carers and young people. Visit www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk.
Kidscape is a charity established to prevent bullying and promote child protection. They give advice for young people, professionals and parents about different types of bullying and how to tackle it. They also offer specialist training and support for school staff and assertiveness training for young people. Visit www.kidscape.org.uk.
The NSPCC provide information and advice about bullying. Visit http://www.nspcc.org.uk.
You can also phone them to report concerns about a particular child.
Contact a family
www.cafamily.org.uk is an organisation for parent/carers of disabled children which provides a free helpline for parents and families and a leaflet - guide to dealing with bullying for parents of disabled children (pdf format, 572 KB).
For young people
oxme.info is our website for children and young people aged between eight and 19. It includes information for young people on how to deal with bullying and how to keep safe on the internet at www.oxme.info/anti-bullying
Don't stick it
Is a website for young people with learning difficulties with advice for their parents or carers.
Cyberbullying and E-safety
The website provides a wide range of age specific advice and resources for young people on e-safety and cyberbullying.