Last reviewed 5 November 2020

Michael Evans, a former Headteacher, looks at what is being done in schools to prevent bullying.


Bullying is never fun, it’s a cruel and terrible thing to do to someone. If you are being bullied, it is not your fault. No one deserves to be bullied, ever. Raini Rodriguez

The Anti-Bullying Alliance

In 2002 the NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau established the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), with the aim of tackling the continuing issue of bullying. Since that time the ABA has grown into a coalition of organisations and individuals that work together to achieve their vision of stopping bullying and to create a safer environment in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn.

The ABA has three chief objectives:

  • To raise the profile of bullying and the effect that it has on the lives of children and young people

  • To create a climate in which everyone agrees that bullying is unacceptable

  • To make sure that teachers, youth practitioners, parents, children and young people have the skills and knowledge to address bullying effectively.

Bullying continues to be widespread, but it has no definition in law. It is defined by the Anti-Bullying Alliance as:

The repetitive intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or through cyberspace.

The extent of the problem

To give an idea of the extent of the bullying problem in schools, the DfE conducted a survey of year 10 pupils. Among the findings, the research found that:

  • 40% of the young people had been bullied during the previous 12 months

  • 6% reported being bullied on a daily basis

  • 26% reported that the most common form of bullying was name calling, including by text and email

  • 18% reported being excluded from social groups

  • 1 in 4 young people with SEN experienced violence

  • Disabled children and those with SEN were around twice as likely to be bullied

  • Children eligible for free school meals were often bullied

  • Boys were more likely to be victimised than girls.

It is reported that 44% of young people who have been bullied experience depression, 41% experience social anxiety and 31% have suicidal thoughts.

The role that schools have to play

Schools have a duty of care to protect all of their pupils and to provide a safe, healthy environment. The Education Act 2002 Section 175 places a specific legal duty on maintained schools and LAs to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Statutory guidance under Section 175 states that ‘safeguarding’ specifically covers issues such as bullying.

Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires maintained schools to have measures that prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. By law, all state schools must have a behaviour policy that includes all forms of bullying. Some schools choose to have a separate bullying policy.

The Independent Schools Standards (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 state that the proprietor of an academy or other independent school is required to ensure that an effective anti-bullying strategy and health and safety strategy is drawn up and implemented.

Essentially, a school bullying policy should accept that bullying in any form is wrong. Children and young people have the right to feel safe, secure and valued. There should be positive strategies in place that deal with bullying and actively challenge the use of humiliation, fear, ridicule and other similar approaches. The overriding message is that everyone should be treated with respect and courtesy.


Cyberbullying is often worse than face-to-face bullying because the victim often has no clue as to the identity or location of the perpetrator.

  • Comments, images, and videos about a person can be posted online and cyber bullies can hack into victims’ personal accounts in order to harass them

  • Sometimes people who wouldn’t normally bully anyone will do so online because they think they can hide easily.

  • Cyber bullies often feel braver because of this anonymity, but once they are caught, there is a clear trail of evidence against them.

Schools should have procedures in place to deal with cyberbullying. Technology is available that will detect cyberbullying when it takes place in school, but prevention is best done through discussion with pupils. They should understand that such behaviour is not acceptable and is just as serious as other forms of bullying. Victims should be encouraged to report incidences and specific members of staff should be available to provide support.

Illegal types of bullying

While all forms of bullying are reprehensible, some types of bullying are illegal and should be reported to the police. These include bullying that involves:

  • Violence, physical or sexual assault

  • Theft

  • Harassment and intimidation (such as abusive texts or emails) over a period of time

  • Hate crime.

Anti-Bullying Week

Every year since its inception, the ABA has held an Anti-Bullying Week during the third week of November. The intention is to encourage children of all ages, together with parents and carers, to get involved and to take part in various activities that will help to shine a light on the problems of bullying and ways to help to resolve the issue.

With a different theme each year, the 2020 theme is Unite Against Bullying. The aim will be to show how parents, carers and teachers can create a safe environment for young people and how they can play an active role in the prevention of bullying. This will provide an open platform for young people to talk about any issues they have with bullying.

To mark the first day of Anti-Bullying Week, the ABA suggests that children and adults should wear odd socks to school in order to celebrate what makes us all unique.

Another supporter of Anti-Bullying Week is Bullying UK, part of the Family Lives charity. This charity suggests wearing blue all day on the Friday before Anti-Bullying Week to help to boost the wellbeing of those who have experienced bullying, by minimising their feeling of isolation and lifting their self-esteem.

Anti-Bullying is everyone’s responsibility

Finally, a clear message from the Anti-Bullying Alliance.

“Bullying has a long-lasting effect on those who experience and witness it, but by channelling our collective power, through shared efforts and shared ambitions, we can reduce bullying together. From parents and carers, to teachers and politicians, to children and young people, we all have a part to play in coming together to make a difference.”

Some sources of support and advice

There are a number of organisations that will provide support and advice to those being bullied. These include:


  • The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) is a coalition of organisations that work together to tackle the continuing issue of bullying.

  • Anti-Bulling Week is held during the third week of November each year with the aim of shining a light on the problems of bullying and ways to help resolve the issue.

  • Research conducted by the DfE indicated that 40% of year 10 pupils had been bullied during the previous 12 months.

  • All schools have a statutory requirement to have anti-bullying strategies.

  • Many pupils are subjected to cyber bullying and schools should have means of detection, prevention and support for victims.

  • Some types of bullying are illegal.

  • Prevention of bullying is everyone’s responsibility.