Bullying within schools is an issue that has recently received significant media attention. At its core, bullying is a health and safety issue and schools have a statutory obligation to address this (both in relation to their staff and students). We recommend implementing the following three steps:
1 Policies for preventing and responding to bullying: These polices should include definitions and examples of bullying and, most importantly, should include a clear process for reporting bullying concerns.
We recommend implementing a “speak up” culture where both staff and students are actively encouraged to report bullying, whether towards themselves or others. As part of this, it is good practice to have a range of options available for reporting bullying concerns (for example, through both a formal process and through other means, such as the use of trusted “contact people” within the school).
2 Implement an anti-bullying programme: Although policies are an important first step, they are not enough on their own.
We recommend that schools also implement broader approaches and programmes to focus on practical advice and strategies for the prevention and response to bullying behaviour.
3 Address bullying complaints promptly and effectively: We find that issues can arise when staff and/or students feel that their complaints will not be adequately responded to. It is important for schools to follow their own policies and to ensure that any bullying complaints are promptly and appropriately addressed (following a fair process and ongoing communications with affected parties in relation to that process).
Please get in touch with Simpson Grierson’s education law experts for further advice or assistance.