Government guidance says that bullying means behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally. Bullying can take many forms, including cyber-bullying and is often motivated by prejudice against certain groups or because another child is seen as different.
Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are three times more likely to be bullied compared with their peers. Click here for further information and advice for parents of disabled children that may be experiencing bullying.
Government guidance says that state schools should have an anti-bullying policy which sets out the way that bullying should be dealt with in the school. This includes:
bullying related to race, religion and culture
bullying pupils with disabilities or special educational needs
sexist bullying and harassment
bullying pupils because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation
cyberbullying (the use of mobile phones and the internet to bully pupils).
If there is no policy, you should contact the head teacher.
In England, the Government Guidance says that schools should discipline pupils who bully, whether inside or outside the school premises. At the same time, the school should look at why they bully and identifying whether they themselves need help.
If bullying is so serious that your child is too frightened to go to school, or you fear for your child’s safety, you may wish to keep your child at home. However, this might be in breach of your duty to provide your child with a suitable education. If your child is too unwell to attend school because of fear or stress, your child should go to the doctor's and the doctor should be asked to provide medical evidence for the school. If your child cannot get a medical certificate, you should make sure that in any letters you write to the school you state that, in your opinion, it is not reasonable for your child to attend school because of bullying.
If the bullying is extremely serious and the bully is over the age of ten, the bully could be prosecuted for a criminal offence, for example, assault or harassment. If the school has been unable to stop the bullying, you may wish to report the matter to the police.
If you’ve suffered abuse at school this may also be a hate incident or hate crime. You can report a hate incident or crime to the police. For more information on hate crime, see Hate crime.
If the police will not act, or if the bully is under the age of ten, you could seek advice from a solicitor about other legal action. For example, it may be possible to take legal action for negligence against the school and the local education authority for failure in their duty of care to the pupil.
In England, guidance about bullying for parents, pupils and teachers is available from the GOV.UK website at: www.gov.uk/bullying-at-school/the-law.
LSCB for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham provides some information about bullying and contact details for the relevant departments within your borough that might be able to offer advice and support.
In addition, you might find the following charities and organisations useful:
Bullying UK provides information and support to children, young people that are experiencing bullying and to their families.
Their mission is to provide children, families, carers and professionals with advice, training and practical tools to prevent bullying and protect young lives.
The council for disabled children works with children and young people of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) their parents and professionals to reduce bullying in schools.
This charity works with families with disabled children. You may find the following online link useful A guide on dealing with bullying: for parents of disabled children
This organisation provides information about the Anti-Bullying SEN & Disability programme by the Anti-Bullying Alliance.
This page on the Citizens Advice website has information about various problems at school and how to overcome them.