Norfolk Children’s Services believes that every child deserves to learn in a safe environment, free from harassment and bullying.
Bullying is something we all need to take very seriously. It is a deliberately hurtful act, which is repeated often over a period of time. It causes pain and distress to the victim, and is an abuse of power where the bully thinks he or she is in control and the victim feels powerless.
Everyone – staff, pupils, parents/carers and members of the community – has a role to play to stop bullying.
Bullying can range from physical violence to verbal abuse and being cut out of social groups. It also includes abusive texts, emails or nasty notes put on social networking sites (such as Facebook) and websites (known as cyber bullying). Bullying is not a one off incident such as a fight or when two equals have the odd fight or quarrel.
Being a bully, or being bullied, can happen to anyone and can have long-term effects.
Bullying is often secretive and hidden and staff may not always be aware of it. If you think your child is being bullied it is important to talk to the staff in that setting as soon as possible. Schools and settings are keen to address bullying matters swiftly and take steps with you to sort it out.
Bullying can take many forms but it usually includes the following types of behaviour:
Physical – hitting, kicking, pinching, punching, scratching, spitting or any other form of physical attack. Damage to or taking someone else’s belongings may also constitute as physical bullying. This form of bullying is more common amongst boys.
Verbal – name calling, insulting, making racist, sexist or homophobic jokes, remarks or teasing, using sexually suggestive or abusive language, offensive remarks. This form of bullying accounts for about 75% of all bullying.
Indirect or ‘Behind your back’ – spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumours, sending abusive mail, and email and text messages (cyber bullying). This form of bullying is more common amongst girls.
Cyber– bullying using any form of technology. This includes the following:
Bullying can happen anywhere: in school, in the home and in the community. At school this could be in the playground, corridors and anywhere where there is no immediate adult supervision. Children can also be bullied to and from school, on the school bus and even in their own home via technology (known as cyber bullying – see What are the different types of bullying? above).
Anyone can be bullied and a child may be a target of bullying and a bully at the same time. There are no natural targets (the preferred word to victims). Some children are bullied for no obvious reason, while others are bullied because they are different in some way. For example, they may have special educational needs or come from a different cultural background.
Bullies often choose people who react to their comments or actions. They know that most of us react to comments about the way we look or our families (usually our mum) so these are the comments they are most likely to use. In Norfolk we are keen to teach children the assertiveness skills to deal with bullying and many schools have trained in these methods (Kidscape ZAP assertiveness skills).
To teach your child assertive responses to name calling, including use of body language, the Broken Record technique, Fogging and Creative Responses, go to Advice for children and young people to help them deal with bullying.
Any of the following behaviour might mean that your child is being bullied:
These are only examples and there could be other reasons for these changes. Remember, you know your own child and you will know when something major has changed in their behaviour. If you are worried that something is wrong, ask them directly about it, including asking them whether they think they are being bullied.
Bullying is meant to hurt and can do so both physically and emotionally. It can have a long-term effect on children’s educational, emotional and social development, which sometimes lasts into adult life.
Some children may refuse to go to school and/or become ill, while others may become socially isolated and lonely. Schoolwork can suffer. Over a period of time, their self-esteem can be affected and a few children may become depressed or, in extreme cases, even attempt suicide.
Children can also be affected if they witness bullying, as they may feel guilty for not protecting the target and too afraid of the bully to intervene. Research in Canada found that bullying is most likely to stop when other children intervene. Encourage your child to consider doing at least one of the following actions if they witness bullying:
There are particular times when your child experiences change in school routines that may leave them feeling vulnerable for a while and fearful of being bullied. These changes could include:
While some of these changes may seem quite minor to adults, they do bring about changes in friendships for children, which could affect their behaviour and that of others. Try to be supportive of your child during these times and encourage them to talk to you about how they feel about this.
Children may find it helpful to know that it is natural for them to be fearful of new situations, but it is unlikely that they will be bullied at these times.
We don't have the power to resolve bullying matters within schools. Responsibility for discipline rests with the headteachers and governors. Only the headteacher and school’s governing body can investigate complaints about the internal running and organisation of the school. Complaints therefore need to follow the school’s complaints procedure. Visit Complaints about schools for more information.
Schools have a duty of care to prevent bullying happening on their premises. Taking action for bullying beyond the school gates, which clearly involves pupils from the same school, is at the headteacher’s discretion (Education Act 2006). Most schools will want to know about this and are likely to follow it up. In some cases, the police may be willing to help if you are concerned about your child being bullied outside of school.
All schools must have an anti-bullying policy explaining how it deals with bullying incidents and how it promotes acceptable standards of behaviour. You can get a copy from your child’s school.
Preventing bullying and dealing with it effectively needs staff, pupils and parents to work closely together. Everybody has a role to play and, as parents, you need to be clear about how you can help your child and the school deal with bullying.
Good communication between everyone is essential.
Step one – talk to your child
Step two – talk to the school
What happens will depend on individual circumstances and the procedures set out in the school’s anti-bullying policy.
It is reasonable for you to expect the school to:
Bullying is not always easy to solve and there is no single answer to every problem. Many schools are trying to develop a range of methods to tackle bullying, which do not just involve punishing the bully.
You need to remember that schools are not allowed to disclose all the details of actions they may take against other pupils.
If the bullying continues and you are unhappy with how the school is dealing with the matter, you should:
It is always best to try and sort things out with the school as responsibility for discipline rests with the headteacher and governors.
If you do not feel the problem is being addressed, you may wish to follow the school complaints procedure. The school will give you a copy if you ask for it.
You need to follow the steps in the procedure in the order suggested.
Whilst schools do have a ‘duty of care’ to protect children from bullying within their grounds, the law is not clear about school responsibility beyond the school gates. Most schools will want to know about such incidents and want to support you, but it is unclear to what extent the school must take action to stop the bullying. It is at the headteacher’s discretion whether they follow up incidents involving pupils from their school which occur outside the school gates (Education and Inspections Act, 2006).
The DfES ‘Don’t Suffer in Silence’ guidance suggests that schools can do the following and it may be worth parents and carers discussing this with their schools:
Schools have responsibility for bullying on school contract buses, but not public buses. For the latter this is at the discretion of the school. Parents can ask a school to talk to the transport company about bullying on buses or trains.
If a school declines to become involved in serious incidents parents can contact the Police for advice on 0845 456 4567.
It is not uncommon for children to sometimes be nasty to each other and some do get involved in bullying.
If you are told that your child is bullying and upsetting other children, you have just as important a role to play as the school in helping them to stop this behaviour.
If you find out your child has been bullying:
If the matter is not dealt with and your child continues to bully, it could lead to them getting into trouble with the school and other authorities later on.
All parents have access to an Attendance Improvement Officer for help and advice on issues concerning attendance. They can be contacted through your child’s school.
Your GP can offer direct help and advice. He or she can also refer to more specialist services with the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). This could be with a Primary Mental Health Worker (PMHW) in one of the Norfolk Family Solutions teams, a child psychologist or at a more specialist level, eg a specialist nurse.
Although there is usually a waiting list, if your child is referred to CAMHS, a decision will quickly be taken about how urgently your child needs to be seen, and by which professional, based on information supplied by yourself as a parent and by the GP. If you are very worried about your child’s behaviour, ring the nearest CAMHS Service to you and ask if you can discuss with the Duty Officer.
Discuss the matter with your child’s school. Most schools will also have a school nurse, also known as a school health advisor. You can ask to speak to that person. He/she may be able to offer some specialist advice, or refer to CAMHS directly.
Cyberbullying is the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT), particularly mobile phones and the internet, deliberately to upset someone else. It differs from other forms of bullying as one incident can be classed as bullying (the usual definition for face to face bullying is that it has to happen more than once). There also is not necessarily a power imbalance and some research evidence suggests that many children, who are bullied face to face in school, may use cyber bullying as a way of getting back to those who have bullied them. This means that sometimes the profile of the bully and target are different to face to face bullying.
Being aware of potential difficulties and trying to address these as a parent may help to prevent your child being cyberbullied.
Be aware of what cyberbullying is and how it can happen. If you feel confused about how to advise your child on cyberbullying Childnet offers information on a free ‘Know it all’ DVD that can help inform you about the internet and keeping your child safe. Download a free booklet that accompanies the DVD. Childnet also offers further information and resources, which you can print off for your child. For a list of more useful websites, scroll to the bottom of this page.
Encourage positive use of technology by helping your child to use it to support learning, socialise with peers and explore the wider world. Discuss and promote ‘netiquette’ – responsible online behaviour – and reward your child for this. Tell them this means:
With your children, explore the online technologies and websites that they like to use.
Support your child in making responsible decisions on the internet and when using a mobile phone – make sure they are aware of the types of photos and other content that are appropriate to post online (eg no photos in a school blazer or sports uniform).
Be aware that your child could also be involved in cyberbullying. Be alert to changes in your child’s behaviour – especially after using the internet or their mobile phone. Discuss the emotional impact of bullying on another person.
Agree on family rules and procedures about what to do if someone is being cyberbullied such as saving the message or text as evidence and telling a trusted adult. Tell them the bullying usually stops when they tell other people about it.
Responding to cyberbullying
When a child is the target of cyberbullying, they can feel alone and misunderstood. It is therefore vital that, as a parent or carer, you know how to support your child if they are caught up in cyberbullying.
Part of this is taken from ‘Cyberbullying: advice for parents and carers’ Anti-Bullying Alliance pack for schools 2009
Useful websites for parents/carers and their children
Local and national parent groups:
Parent Partnership Service – for parents/carers of children with special educational needs
Tel: 01603 704070
Norwich Parent Resource Centre – advice for parents of 5 – 13 year olds in the Norwich area
Tel: 01603 747471
Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council (NNREC)
Tel: 01603 611644
Advisory Centre for Education (ACE) – free advice and help for parents on all school matters
Tel: 0808 800 5793
Anti Bullying Alliance – key information on where to get help for children, young people, their families and professionals
The Children’s Legal Centre National Education Law and Advisory Unit – free education law advice and assistance
Tel: 08088 020 008 for advice on Child Law and 0845 3454345 for community advice
Kidscape Hotline - advice and information for parents of bullied children
Tel: 08451 205 204
Parentline Plus (now Family Lives) - free helpline offering support for anyone parenting a child
Tel: 0808 800 2222
ChildLine - free national helpline for children and young people. The call will not appear on your bill.
Tel: 0800 1111
Jenny Alexander: When your child is bullied – practical and easy to follow advice. Simon and Schuster, 2006. ISBN 1-4165 2235-2
Michelle Elliott: 101 Ways to deal with bullying – a guide for parents. Hodder and Stoughton, 1997
Sarah Lawson: Helping children cope with bullying. Sheldon Press, 1994
Gael Lindenfield: Confident Children: A parents guide to helping children feel good. Thorsens, 1994
William Voors: The Parents Book About Bullying: Changing the Course of Your Child's Life (Paperback - 15 Sep 2000)
Barbara Coloroso: The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander: From Preschool to Secondary School - How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence (Paperback - 23 Sep 2005)
Evelyn M. Field: Bully Blocking: Six Secrets to Help Children Deal with Teasing and Bullying (Paperback - 15 May 2007)
Sheila Munro: Overcome Bullying for Parents (How to Help Your Child) (Paperback - 29 May 1997)
Alison and the Bully Monsters by Jac Jones, paperback, Pont Books (2000)
Alison Little is scared. Of the dog next door, of the boys down the road, of the bigger girls - of her own shadow, you might say! This is the story of courage and triumph.
ISBN 13: 9781859027523 | ISBN 10: 1859027520
Don't be a Bully, Billy! By Phil Roxbee Cox, hardback, Usborne (2008)
This is a new hardback edition of the popular title from the "Cautionary Tales" series, which help young children to understand and discuss key moral issues. Billy just won't stop bullying but one day he picks on the wrong school kid and very quickly learns his lesson. Repetitive phrases and rhythmic text encourage children to participate in the story. This title is amusingly illustrated by Jan McCafferty.
ISBN 13: 9780746096345 | ISBN 10: 0746096348
Stop Picking on Me: A First Look at Bullying by Pat Thomas Hachette Children (2000)
This approachable picture book explores the difficult issue of bullying in reassuringly simple terms. The fears, worries and questions surrounding this upsetting experience are made accessible to young children. Written by psychotherapist and counsellor Pat Thomas, these superb information books promote interaction between children, parents and teachers on personal, social and emotional issues.
ISBN 13: 9780750028875 | ISBN 10: 0750028874
Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne
The hero of this children’s book is Willy. He is a very kind and thoughtful character and would not hurt a fly. The suburban gorillas call him Willy the Wimp. With a little bit of good luck Willy saw and wrote in to a body building advertisement. After a lot of very hard work with the body building programme, Willy changed himself dramatically. He is more than able to cope with the suburban gorillas and comes to the rescue of Millie.
Hugo and the Bully Frogs by Francesca Simon
Hugo is a little frog with a tiny croak whose life is made miserable by some big, bad bully frogs. The other animals suggest ways in which Hugo can defend himself, but he is just too timid. Then when bossy old Duck arrives, she soon hits on the answer.
Words Are Not For Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick, hardback, A & C Black (2009)
"Some words are loud and some are soft. Some are kind and some are not." Using simple, rhythmic words and colourful illustrations, this book helps little ones to choose words that are helpful, not hurtful. Features include rhythmic, repetitive text, friendly & ethnically diverse illustrations and humorous touches, plus a page of concise advice for parents/carers.
ISBN 13: 9781408115077 | ISBN 10: 1408115077
Roy the Eagle by Kate O, paperback, Loose Chippings (2009)
Roy the Eagle is teased for wearing glasses. Engagingly told in verse with colourful and forceful illustrations, it was an instant hit when trialled with Key Stage 1 children (ages 5-6), although it can be read to younger children out loud or read by older children on their own. A teacher at one primary school described the book as brilliant and one of the children said 'It is a story isn't it, because eagles don't wear glasses do they?' Another school has used the book to encourage a young girl who is refusing to wear her glasses. The teacher is very impressed and is looking for a cuddly toy eagle they can put glasses on! Children can follow Roy's adventures as he overcomes all kinds of obstacles to discover that the very things that make him different from his friends are what brings them closer together.
ISBN 13: 9780955421761 | ISBN 10: 0955421764
7 – 11 years
The Willow Street Kids: beat the bullies by M Elliot, Macmillan Children’s
The friends move to secondary school and run into bullies – one they knew from Primary school. Contains examples of bullying and how to stop it happening. Available from Kidscape at www.kidscape.org.uk
Buried Alive! by Jacqueline Wilson, Random House Children's Books (2009)
Tim’s quiet holiday in Wales, with his parents and his best friend Biscuits, unexpectedly becomes truly terribly adventurous. An encounter with two local bully-boys threatens to disrupt Tim and Biscuits’s fun but their friendship is also threatened by the arrival of Tim’s ebullient friend, Kelly. Tim tells the story.
Wise Guides: bullying by M Elliot
Talk about it
You should tell your parents, teachers and other adults that this is happening to you. Don’t feel ashamed, it’s not your fault. If you don’t think you’re being taken seriously, tell them how it makes you feel and ask them to help. They should help you resolve the conflict and help you let the bully know how you feel. The bully might be surprised at how bad they are making you feel.
Tell a friend what is happening
Ask him or her to help you. It will be harder for the bully to pick on you if you have a friend with you for support.
Say ‘No’ really firmly, then turn and walk away
Don’t worry if people think you are running away. Remember, it is very hard for the bully to go on bullying someone who won’t stand still to listen.
Try not to show that you are upset or angry
Bullies love to get a reaction – it’s ‘fun’. Every time you get angry or upset they will do it more. If you can keep calm and hide your emotions, they might get bored and leave you alone. As someone said to us, ‘they can’t bully you if you don’t care’.
Don’t try to please the bully
You might think ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ The answer is probably nothing. Anyone can become a target. The important thing is not to try to change yourself to make the bullying stop. If they pick on your trainers and you get a new pair, they’ll probably find something else to pick on.
Show them you’re not bothered
There are a number of tactics for deflecting name calling. Bullies soon get bored if they can’t see you getting upset or angry. You could try some of these:
Try to think up funny or clever replies in advance
Make a joke of it. This might be difficult so write down the names you are being called and ask family and friends to help you think up some funny answers. Practice them at home until you feel confident enough to say them. Replies don’t have to be wonderfully brilliant or clever but it helps to have an answer ready. Practice saying them in the mirror at home. Using prepared replies works best if the bully is not too threatening and just needs to be put off.
If you can’t think of a clever answer or a ‘fogging’ answer, just shrug your shoulders and say ‘Whatever’, ‘Bothered?’, ‘Heard it all before’. Again, the bully can’t argue and may get bored.
Sometimes asking the bully to repeat what they said can put them off
Often bullies are not brave enough to repeat the remark exactly so they tone it down. If they repeat it, you will have made them do something they hadn’t planned on and this gives you some control of the situation. This works especially well for the nasty comments during lesson times!
Always tell an adult
If it happens at school, tell a teacher you trust. If it’s outside the school tell a parent or any other adult that you trust.
Don’t fight back if you can help it
Most bullies are bigger or stronger than you. If you fight back, you could make the situation worse, get hurt or be blamed for starting the trouble.
It’s not worth getting hurt to keep possessions or money
If you feel threatened, give the bullies what they want. Property can be replaced, you can’t.
Try to avoid being alone in the places where you know the bully is likely to pick on you
This might mean changing your route to school, avoiding parts of the playground, or only using common rooms or lavatories when other people are there. It’s not fair that you do this, but it might put the bully off.
Being left out
Try talking to one of the group
Usually you’ll know the one in the group who is feeling bad or is weaker/kinder than the others. Get him/her alone or phone them at home. Ask them why you are being left out; how they would feel if they were being treated as badly as you are; why they are joining in; and say that you know they’re not like that really – appeal to their good side.
In all cases
Keep a diary of what is happening
Write down the details of the incidents and your feelings. A written record of the bullying makes it easier to prove what has been going on.