Education: your rights and responsibilities

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Bullying at school

Many children and young people feel they have been bullied at some point but there are things that can be done.

Key information

Bullying is a persistent, deliberate attempt to hurt or humiliate someone and can take many forms, from teasing and spreading rumours to pushing someone around and causing physical harm. It often happens in front of other people.

It can include name calling, mocking, writing or drawing offensive graffiti, messing around with or taking people’s belongings, gossiping, excluding people from groups, kicking and threatening others and happens online as ‘cyberbullying’, using mobile phones and the internet as well as in the playground, street or home.

According to the charity Contact a Family, children and young people with additional needs may also experience forms of bullying such as:

  • manipulative bullying: where a person is controlling someone
  • conditional friendship: where a child thinks someone is being their friend but they also bully them too
  • exploitative bullying: where features of a child's condition are used to bully them

Bullying can cause sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety and poor concentration, and lead to selfharm, depression, suicidal thoughts and, in some cases, suicide. Bullying behaviour is characterised by three things:

  • it is repeated over time
  • it involves deliberately hurtful behaviour
  • it involves an unfair balance of power that makes it hard for those being bullied to defend themselves.

Key warning signs of bullying are

  • not wanting to go to or skipping school 
  • suddenly becoming ill when it's time for school
  • being frightened to walk to and from school 
  • losing interest in schoolwork 
  • running away 
  • changes in behaviour - becoming anxious or aggressive
  • loss of appetite 
  • having nightmares 
  • self harm
  • asking for money or starting to steal 
  • ‘losing’ possessions at school 
  • bullying younger brothers or sisters 
  • more bruises or scratches than usual or injuries with no feasible explanation for them 

Bullies who continually harm other children need support and help as well. They may have experienced difficulties of their own at home which could have led to their actions. 

Your rights

Schools and colleges can help. In Cambridgeshire schools and colleges are determined to stop bullying behaviour and talking to your child’s school is an important step. 
Schools have a variety of systems in place to support anti-bullying work, e.g. mentoring and student buddy schemes, student councils on bullying.

They can take action themselves and can get help from other professionals.

You can ask to see a copy of their anti-bullying policy.

What you can do

Listen to your child: reassure them that it is right to talk about it and that it is not their fault.

Encourage them to talk to their teacher and / or contact the school yourself – useful to have notes on the details e.g. time, save texts, copies of emails, dates that will help the school act.

Remind them that seeking support is a positive thing to do.

Build your child’s confidence and self esteem by focusing on positive things.

Consider helping them make new friends through getting involved in after school clubs, weekend classes, volunteering or by developing new interests.

Our Bullying at school leaflet provides more information for parents and carers and is available in Polish and Lithuanian.

The Family Information Directory has a list of services and organisations that support children, young people their families who may be experiencing bullying.

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