How To Spot Bullying in Schools

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • The different forms of bullying.
  • How to spot the signs of bullying in schools.
  • Ways to prevent/reduce bullying and what to do about it.
  • How to find and apply for the best education and SEND jobs.


Anti-Bullying Week is an annual UK event which aims to raise awareness of bullying. Between 13th-17th November, Anti Bullying Week raises awareness, celebrates what makes everyone unique and respects each other’s individuality.

Bullying can occur in all schools and can be related to age, sex, race, disability, religion or sexual orientation. It is something that can massively affect a child or young person’s social, mental and emotional health for the rest of their life. The impact of bullying is huge and no one should have to put up with bullying or be made to feel unsafe at school.

During anti-bullying week, it is important to address issues at school, and create measures to spot bullying early with the intention of preventing it altogether.

Knowing how to spot bullying in schools is crucial for creating a safe and supportive environment for students. 

In honour of Anti Bullying Week, we’ve created this guide to help tackle bullying in schools and to provide you with a more efficient way of spotting the signs and dealing with bullies.


The different forms of bullying and impacts

In today's technological and digitally advanced world, it is important to understand and accept that there are more forms of bullying today than ever before. We’re all familiar with the concept of bullying, but it’s more than just hurtful comments and physical abuse.

Bullying and harassment can be defined as unwanted conduct or behaviour designed to cause harm or distress to another person. It can occur in all forms such as threats, excluding, name-calling, hitting and other forms of physical or emotional abuse.

The severity of bullying varies from case to case, but is nonetheless damaging to a child's mental health. Those who are bullied are more likely to: 

  • Experience a range of mental health issues as an adult.
  • Not be in employment, education or training into adulthood.
  • Not be in stable relationships.
  • Be homeless in the future.
  • Commit or be a victim of domestic violence.

According to Ofcom, older children in the UK are more likely to be bullied on a screen than in person. Ofcom found that among the children who experienced bullying online or offline, 84% of bullying was more likely to happen on a device than face to face (61%).

In the modern world, we have to remember the rising issue of cyberbullying and online trolls. Cyberbullying is the “use of any electronic device to harass, intimidate, or bully another” (Mahoney, 2012). This includes texts, emails, videos, and posts and messages on social media. 

Cyberbullying can be just as impactful and hurtful to children and occurs at school as well as at home. Cyber bullying is becoming more of a problem in schools and can be harder for Teachers to detect.


How to spot signs of bullying in schools

If a child is being bullied at school, Teachers are expected to be able to identify the signals and do something about it. However, spotting the signs isn’t easy, as many cases of bullying can go unnoticed.

Ditch the Label research found that 37% of pupils who have been bullied never tell anybody about it and of them 23% don’t tell anyone because they are worried that it will make things worse. School staff need to be alert to detect any form of bullying and the severe impact it can have.

Whether it is a one-off incident, a persistent case, occurs online or face-to-face, bullying can be identified and prevented. A child being bullied can display out of character behaviours which include: 

  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
  • Frequent tears, anger or mood swings.
  • Complaints of being ill or wanting to go home.
  • Becomes aggressive and unreasonable.
  • Becomes withdrawn and refuses to talk about what is wrong.
  • Doesn't want to go to school.
  • Changes their route to school or appears to be frightened of walking to school.
  • Doesn't want to go to school on public transport.
  • Struggles with schoolwork.
  • Often alone or excluded from friendship groups at school.
  • A frequent target for teasing, mimicking or ridicule at school.
  • Unable to speak up in class and appears insecure or frightened.
  • Has unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches.


Strategies to prevent bullying

Schools need to ensure that bullying prevention efforts and bullying response plans are in place so that appropriate action can be taken. School staff should be fully trained on bullying and be able to identify aggressive behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils.

Ways to prevent or reduce bullying at schools include: 

  • Build an open and positive school environment. 
  • Encourage social and emotional learning.
  • Address the problem or cause.
  • Undergo anti-bullying training and programmes to prevent bullying.


Build an open and positive school environment

Reducing or stopping bullying in schools is crucial for creating a safe and supportive learning environment. Teach kindness and empathy and create an environment that encourages honesty and discussion.

Find ways to encourage students to trust their Teachers and the importance of communication and connection. Students are more likely to approach Teachers to confide in or discuss problems in an environment that is welcoming, honest and open.

Creating a safe space where communication is encouraged is key to making students feel that they can tell Teachers if they are being bullied or know someone who is being bullied.

By creating opportunities for connection with students, they may come to you with reports of bullying that you didn’t notice but you can help to change. 


Encourage social and emotional learning

Students should participate in activities that boost their social and emotional learning to cope with everyday challenges. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school success.

Discuss differences and ways for students to identify with others and embrace empathy so children can better understand what bullying is and the impact it has on people. This could prevent or reduce bullying that is based on a lack of understanding of and empathy towards cultures, gender, sex, religion etc.


Address the problem or cause

Don’t label or categorise children based on being a bully or a victim, treat them as equals regardless of opinions. If you want to address an incident, listen to both sides of the story and be non-judgemental. It could be a misunderstanding or something bothering a child at home or with their wellbeing. 

Allow both participants to be honest, open and understand the consequences of both of their actions. Once the conflict is acknowledged, the next step is to determine the cause of the conflict. Schools should conduct a thorough investigation to gather all the facts and determine what is at the root of the conflict.

Keep in contact with both parties and continue to have conversations to ensure the bullying doesn’t continue or get worse. Putting the situation into the open allows both to engage and be empathetic rather than a one-to-one with just the ‘victim’ or punishment for the ‘bully.’


Undergo anti-bullying training and programmes to prevent bullying

Programmes or sessions that aim to prevent bullying would be beneficial to all school staff to learn how to properly deal with bullying. Implementing free online anti-bullying training for anyone that works with children and young people to effectively develop an understanding of bullying and how to prevent and respond to it.

Offer training for new staff, and updated training for current staff (especially for cyber bullying).


Education and SEND recruitment

As a specialist education recruitment agency, we’re here to support schools with their staffing needs as we understand the importance of creating a safe environment in the classroom. 

Searching for permanent or daily cover staff? Get in contact with our specialist education recruitment consultant, Jamie Heath on 01772 954200 now to learn more about the education recruitment services available to you.


Education and SEND jobs

If you’re looking for a new career opportunity in education, take a look at our teaching jobs page or why not upload your CV to be contacted about upcoming teaching career opportunities. 


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