What to do if your child is being bullied

Bullying affects one in three children in the UK, according to the charity Beatbullying, so it’s important to recognise the signs and work with your child’s school to tackle any problems straightaway

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“Bullying can affect anyone and can have devastating effects for children in terms of feelings of self-worth, self-confidence and school performance,” says Richard Piggin, Deputy CEO of UK charity Beatbullying.  

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“Bullying is not the same as disputes and squabbles between friends – though these can sometimes cross the line. It is repetitive behaviour, done over a period of time, to deliberately harm, harass or hurt someone,” explains Richard.

What are the signs your child may be bullied?

Some effects of bullying may be easy to spot without being told, while others may be less obvious. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Fear of going to school, including using sickness as an excuse
  • Lost money or belongings
  • Unusual bed wetting
  • Bruises or scratches
  • Signs of emotional distress, including anxiety, acting withdrawn, aggression or depression
  • Noticeable change in their school grades

“Remember that while these signs may not necessarily mean that your child is being bullied, they are a good indication that something is wrong,” says Richard.

How do schools protect children from bullying?

“Every school must have an anti-bullying policy in place and should follow the guidelines for every bullying incident. Every school should take bullying incidents very seriously and should act on them straightaway,” explains Paula Burgess, Headteacher at Bramley School in Surrey.

An anti-bullying policy will explain the protocol that should take place in schools in the event of bullying, starting with interviewing the children involved to try and ascertain what has happened.

The policy will make it clear that bullying is not acceptable at any stage and it will set guidelines on what can be done in the future to stop any bullying incidents from happening again.

If you’d like to know more about a specific school’s anti-bullying policy, you can request to see it by asking a teacher or the school secretary.

Following any bullying incident, the school will monitor the children involved to make sure the bullying has stopped.

What should you do if you feel your child is being bullied?

“The most important thing to do is to alert the school,” says Paula. “You should do this initially through your child’s class teacher, so arrange a meeting with them to explain what is happening and the consequences to your child.”

Your child’s class teacher would then speak to your child and the other child or children involved.

“As a parent, you want to be reassured that something is going to be done and that the school is taking it seriously. This will be done during this initial meeting and you would be given feedback by the teacher following any incident,” explains Paula.

Will you be told by the school if your child is being bullied?

This depends entirely on the incident. “If a situation can be nipped in the bud then no, parents are not usually involved. However if bullying escalates or is continuous, parents will be called in for a meeting so that the school can offer them support in dealing with the situation,” says Paula.

Should you speak to the other parents involved?

No. If bullying is happening within school then it is the school that should be responsible for sorting out the situation.

What if your child is the bully?

Read our guide on what to do if you find out your child is a bully for more advice.  Also head to Beatbullying, for more help

Do children get taught about bullying at school?

Yes. Schools will address the issue of bullying in Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship lessons as well as in assemblies. Teachers should also role model good behaviour. Posters are usually put up around school so that every pupil is aware that bullying happens, but is completely unacceptable.

“The idea is to always talk about how bullying doesn’t only happen in schools but in adult life too, advising children on what they should do if they come across bullying behaviour. Your child will also be advised on who to talk to about bullying, such as a teacher or parent, and that it’s not something they should keep to themselves,” says Paula.

PSHE and Citizenship lessons are usually taught to children from Year 1 upwards.

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“Most children will already have a basic understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong before Year 1, but PSHE lessons formalise this understanding and will also introduce them to further situations that may not have arisen yet. Children will also learn about the consequences of their actions and have a chance to discuss things which are not black and white,” explains Paula.

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