Bullying in schools

What is Bullying?

'Bullying' refers to physical or psychological chastisement or intimidation. It can be particularly prevalent in schools, where bullying thrives because of a variety of factors, such as immaturity and gang culture.

The fear and psychological damage that bullying can cause to a child has in the past been treated with relative disregard. However, in the last twenty years or so, bullying has been acknowledged to be a very serious problem, which in the worst cases can lead to severe depression and even suicide.

Bullying can also lead to increased truancy rates, which can have an adverse impact on educational achievement.


Bullying has always been present in UK schools,  but until the late 1980s, although people were aware that it happened, it was not an issue of major public concern.

As bullying rarely manifests itself in serious physical abuse, it is not usually covered by the criminal law of assault. In addition, the fear engendered by bullying and the social stigmatisation that can follow has often made victims unwilling to speak out.

Also, increased access to the internet and greater use of mobile phones has led to a new kind of bullying. Cyber-bullying can be carried out anywhere, any time, making children even more vulnerable. 

However, there are now a number of charities such as Childline, the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Beatbullying, Kidscape, and Childnet International which provide invaluable advice and effective help for the victims of bullying 

Although bullying is not a specific criminal offence in itself, different aspects of bullying may be. For example, harassment or threatening behaviour could be an offence under the Harassment Act 1997, and sending an offensive electronic communication could be an offence under the Malicious Communication Act 1988.

In addition, the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires schools to have measures in place to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. The Act also gives head teachers a statutory power to discipline pupils for poor behaviour, including bullying, when they are not on school premises.

In December 2011, the Government published new advice on bullying for head teachers, staff and governing bodies. The document, 'Preventing and Tackling Bullying', is intended to "help schools prevent and respond to bullying as part of their overall behaviour policy." It also outlines the Government's approach to bullying, the legal obligations and the powers schools have to tackle bullying, and the principles which underpin the most effective anti-bullying strategies in schools.

Under the new Ofsted framework which comes into force in 2012, schools will be expected to demonstrate the impact of anti-bullying policies.


Each year 10-14 youth suicides are directly attributed to bullying (The Home Office)
Bullied children are 6 times more likely to contemplate suicide than their non-bullied counterparts
1 in 12 children are badly bullied to the point that it affects their education, relationships and even their prospects for jobs in later life
66% of paedophiles are known to the child

Source: Kidscape – 2012


"A safe environment isn't much to ask. But, all too often, it's more than our children and young people enjoy.
"We aim to eradicate the climate of fear and intimidation that many children and young people live under. "

Anti-bullying alliance - 2012

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