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. People might bully someone because of their religion or the country they are from, their sexual identity, the way they look or how well they do in school, among other reasons. 

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 Contact a Family charity, 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 impact on a child’s physical and emotional health, with the effects being long lasting in some cases. Bullying can also affect a child’s experience of school and ability to build relationships. It can cause sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety and poor concentration, and lead to self-harm, 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. Schools may also have a copy of this available to view on their website.

What you can do

As a young person, or as an adult who is being bullied, it is important tell someone about it and ask for help.

As a parent or carer these are some of the things you can do to support your child.  The NSPCC website has information on bullying and cyberbullying and the following points:

  • 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
  • report online videos of bullying and teach them how to stay safe online

You can also find more information on bullying on the Keep Your Head website.

The Kooth online counselling service and 3Ts talking therapies service both offer emotional support to young people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and are free to access. Find information on local support services on the Keep Your Head website.

NHS Choices - Information about self-harm
Childline - Online and telephone support
Parent channel - Wellbeing and behaviour videos
Contact - for families with a disabled child
Anti-Bullying Alliance