The statutory guidance for schools and colleges - Keeping children safe in education 2021 - has been updated and will come into force on September 1st. With this in mind, Luke Evason-Browning from the Anti-Bullying Alliance Team has outlined how this guidance relates to bullying, and how these points differ from the previous guidance.
How does the guidance link to bullying?
- “All staff should be aware of systems within their school or college which support safeguarding and these should be explained to them as part of staff induction. This should include… the behaviour policy (which should include measures to prevent bullying, including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying).” - page 8 [please note: sometimes schools include these measures in a separate anti-bullying policy which ABA would recommend as best practice]
- “Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure there are appropriate policies and procedures in place in order for appropriate action to be taken in a timely manner to safeguard and promote children’s welfare. These policies should include individual schools and colleges having… a behaviour policy, which includes measures to prevent bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying).” - page 25 [please note: sometimes schools include these measures in a separate anti-bullying policy which ABA would recommend as best practice]
- “It is essential that children are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material” – which includes cyberbullying. “An effective whole school and college approach to online safety empowers a school or college to protect and educate pupils, students, and staff in their use of technology and establishes mechanisms to identify, intervene in, and escalate any concerns where appropriate.” - page 33
- Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that their child protection policy includes the different forms peer on peer abuse can take, such as bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying). All staff should be clear about their school’s or college’s policy and procedures with regard to peer on peer abuse. It is important that all staff recognise the indicators and signs of peer on peer abuse and know how to identify it and respond to reports. - page 36-37
- Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure their child protection policy reflects the fact that additional barriers can exist when recognising abuse and neglect in this group of children. These can include “these children being more prone to peer group isolation or bullying (including prejudice-based bullying) than other children” & “the potential for children with SEND or certain medical conditions being disproportionally impacted by behaviours such as bullying, without outwardly showing any signs.” - page 46
- The guidance highlights the importance of social care assessments considering children being harmed outside the home / contextual safeguarding - which includes measures to prevent bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying) - "Children’s social care assessments should consider where children are being harmed in contexts outside the home, so it is important that schools and colleges provide as much information as possible as part of the referral process. This will allow any assessment to consider all the available evidence and enable a contextual approach to address such harm. Additional information is available here: Contextual Safeguarding." - Page 18
- When reporting incidents to the police, any conviction (even with legal anonymity reporting restrictions) is potentially going to generate interest among other pupils or students in the school or college. “It will be important that the school or college ensure both the victim and perpetrator(s) remain protected, especially from any bullying or harassment (including online).” “It is important that the school or college do everything they reasonably can to protect the victim from bullying and harassment as a result of any report they have made” - page 110 & 113
- Sexualised online bullying is classified as a form of sexual harassment. As such, the guidance advises the following response to a report of sexual harassment: “It is essential that all victims are reassured that they are being taken seriously and that they will be supported and kept safe. A victim should never be given the impression that they are creating a problem by reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment. Nor should a victim ever be made to feel ashamed for making a report. If staff have a concern about a child or a child makes a report to them, they should follow the referral process as set out from paragraph 55 in Part one of this guidance. As is always the case, if staff are in any doubt as to what to do they should speak to the designated safeguarding lead (or a deputy).” - page 139
- “The designated safeguarding lead (and any deputies) should undergo training to provide them with the knowledge and skills required to carry out the role. This training should be updated at least every two years. The designated safeguarding lead should undertake Prevent awareness training. Training should provide designated safeguarding leads with a good understanding of their own role, how to identify, understand and respond to specific needs that can increase the vulnerability of children, as well as specific harms that can put children at risk, and the processes, procedures and responsibilities of other agencies, particularly children’s social care, so they… can recognise the additional risks that children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) face online, for example, from online bullying, grooming and radicalisation and are confident they have the capability to support children with SEND to stay safe online.” - page 147-148
Definitions and Indicators which refer to bullying in the report:
- Bullying (including cyberbullying) is listed as an indicator for emotional abuse. - page 11
- Sexualised online bullying is listed as a form of sexual harassment. - page 139
- Peer on peer abuse is described as likely to include bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying). - page 15
- Online safety is categorised into four areas of risk. One area is ‘conduct’. Conduct includes the personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm. For example, making, sending and receiving explicit images (e.g sharing explicit images and online bullying). - page 33
What are the highlighted changes from the last statutory guidance (related to bullying)?
- Paragraphs 46-50 - Peer on peer abuse, which can include bullying, has had additional information added which highlights the importance of staff recognising the signs of peer on peer abuse and knowing how to respond to reports.
- Paragraph 63 - New paragraph which highlights the importance of social care assessments considering children being harmed outside the home on contextual safeguarding - which includes measures to prevent bullying (including cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying).
- Paragraph 145 - Further clarification on peer on peer abuse, which can include bullying, and makes clear there should be a zero tolerance approach to abuse.
- Paragraphs 172-175 - Additional information about DfE’s programme to help schools with preventing and tackling bullying, mental health and behaviour in schools.