Schools generally do not tolerate bullying, but the approach that individual schools take varies.  Do you know how your child’s school tackles bullying? For instance, do they have an active policy of watching for instances of bullying, or only respond when bullying is reported by a child, parent or teacher? How do they deal with the situation?  Are there mechanisms in place to support the child being bullied?  What about the bully – how are they dealt with? Kids are vulnerable, but they’ll often hide the fact that they’re being victimised, so it’s often hard for parents to discover that there’s this kind of problem.  Children feel that admitting to being bullied will be tantamount to saying they can’t cope and there are many reasons why they don’t want their parents to think that of them. If you know how your child’s school manages bullying, it means you have a clear idea of the possibilities for getting the situation sorted. If you happen to be in the Parent-Teacher Association or the Board of Governors, it’s a great topic for discussion.

Reactive strategies

If your school has a reactive strategy, that means that they will only take action if someone reports bullying.  There will be an investigation and either or both parties may be suspended temporarily, either to protect the victim or to prevent the accused from repeating the offence. Once the situation has been examined, a decision will be made about the action to be taken.  This can range from a warning to exclusion, depending on the outcome. Usually, the teaching staff will try to keep an eye on both parties involved to ensure that no further bullying takes place.  However, this can be hard to do, especially if the bully takes action off the school premises. It’s important that as parents you also keep an eye on your child and don’t ignore symptoms that indicate that he or she is unhappy.  While no youngster wants to feel their parent is breathing down their neck, bullying can seriously damage your child’s mental health.

Proactive problem solving

Some schools approach things differently and actively provide in-school resources, such as a school counsellor that kids can talk to, anti-bullying champions to educate the kids about bullying so they understand more about it and perhaps even mentors to re-educate children who have bullied others. With funding stretched, it can be tough to finance these kinds of resource, but when a child is at risk – physically or mentally – they can make a significant difference to that child’s future.  In fact, they can even help a child who has been the perpetrator long-term too and change their behaviours. Some schools take it even further and have a policy of restorative justice like Iffley Academy. If you are actively involved with your child’s school, how could you influence or support a proactive approach to bullying?