What to do if bullying doesn’t stop
Any parent whose child has been bullied knows what an upsetting experience it is. Most of the time, schools act quickly to tackle the problem. But sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, the bullying doesn’t stop.
‘Every child has the right to go to school and feel safe from harm,’ says Martha Evans, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance at the National Children’s Bureau. But for many children, bullying takes away that sense of safety. The rise of mobile technology and social media has also complicated matters; bullying that used to stop at the end of the school day often continues into the evening, giving children no respite.
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So what can you do if, after following the school’s proper channels, your child is still being bullied?
1. Involve your child
‘The first and most important step is to ask your child what they want to happen,’ says Martha. ‘Sometimes, parents are so angry, upset and desperate for a solution that this is forgotten.’
Your child might, for example, be very scared of telling their teacher that they’re still being bullied, and need lots of reassurance that they’ll be protected if they speak out.
2. Familiarise yourself with school policies
All schools must have an anti-bullying policy (sometimes within their behaviour policy) that sets out the measures they’ll take to tackle bullying, and a complaints policy that explains the steps parents need to go through if there’s a problem, and how they will respond.
‘It’s vital that you familiarise with both of these policies – which should be available on the school’s website – so you know what to expect from the school, and what to do if they’re not fulfilling their obligations,’ Martha explains.
The complaints policy, for example, should have a clear order of steps that you need to follow – so you might start by talking to your child’s teacher, then taking the matter to the headteacher, then escalating it to the governors.
3. Keep a log of incidents
‘It’s really important to keep a log of every incident that happens to your child, and take that to the school as evidence,’ Martha says.
Make sure you date every incident, and take photos of any injuries your child has sustained or damage to their property. Keep screenshots of any abusive messages they receive.
4. Involve your GP
‘If your child has physical injuries or is refusing to go to school, take them to the GP and get that officially recorded,’ Martha advises. This will provide valuable independent evidence of what’s happening, and is also important if your child is school refusing, as you as their parent are considered responsible for them going to school and can be liable for fines and even prosecution if they don’t attend.
5. Take your complaint further
If you’ve been through the school’s complaints procedure and your child is still being bullied, you may want to take your complaint further.
You can complain to the local authority, who will have officers responsible for safeguarding who can support you and your child. If this still doesn’t resolve the problem, you can escalate your complaint to the Department for Education (DfE). This should be a last resort, and you must list all the steps you’ve taken so far.
You can also complain to Ofsted, but only if the issue affects the school as a whole, rather than your child as an individual – for example, if there’s a widespread culture of bullying that the school is not addressing.
6. Seek further help
‘If your child’s safety is at risk, you can report the bullying to your local authority’s Children’s Services and to the police,’ Martha says. You should use the 101 non-emergency number for this.
It’s also important to feel supported yourself. Charities like Family Lives and Kidscape are good sources of information and advice, and talking to someone impartial can help you manage your own feelings.
7. Don’t take matters into your own hands
Tempting though it may be to confront the bully or their parents, don’t. ‘It’s often the last thing children want to happen, and it can escalate the situation significantly,’ says Martha. ‘It’s a risky thing to do and can get you into trouble yourself.’
8. Keep communicating
Even if you’re losing faith in the school’s ability to deal with the bullying, keep talking to them so they’re up to date about everything that’s happening. ‘It’s important to keep that channel of communication open and involve your child so they have some sense of control over the situation,’ Martha explains.
Parents often consider moving their child to a new school if they’re being persistently bullied, but Martha believes this should be a last resort. ‘It’s important that the school learns from the situation, and that is less likely to happen if you withdraw your child,’ she says. ‘Being able to go back to the same school can also help your child with the healing process.’
If you do decide that a change of school is the only solution, you’ll need to make an in-year application for a new place. Contact the prospective new school to find out whether they have space for your child, and how to apply. ‘Whatever you do, don’t take your child off their existing school’s roll until you’ve secured a place at another school, as you will be responsible for providing their education,’ Martha says.
'Persistent bullying affected my daughter's confidence'
Jane is mum to Natasha, 11, who was bullied throughout primary school.
'Natasha started being bullied in Year 1, when one particular boy was verbally and occasionally physically abusive. I spoke to her teacher multiple times, but to no avail.
'We then moved house, and Tash changed school, but the bullying started again. This time, it was a girl, who targeted her with verbal bullying and even tried to strangle her with a scarf.
'The head tackled it immediately, and it stopped for a while, but then the bullying started again, with nasty messages sent on Google Hangouts, which the girls were accessing on their tablets.
'The head was again very supportive, and ensured that the bullies had no access to Tash, but Tash hates conflict and found it very upsetting.
'Being bullied affected Tash’s confidence and she asked why she seemed to be targeted. We've spoken a lot about what is normal banter and what is bullying, and recognise that Tash needs to develop some emotional resilience.
'My advice if your child is being persistently bullied is to involve school staff as much as possible and don't be fobbed off. Listen to your child carefully and observe their behaviour; they might not have the verbal skills to tell you what's happening. Above all, make sure that you tell them that they are in no way responsible for the actions and behaviour of others.'