The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published extensive new guidance for schools on tackling prejudice-based bullying. The guidance includes videos, written guidance and lots of case studies sharing best practice tips from other schools. We take a brief look at the issues covered by the guidance and signpost some of the key take home messages.

What is prejudice-based bullying?

Prejudice-based bullying is any type of direct physical or verbal bullying, indirect bullying or cyberbullying based on relevant protected characteristics (race or national/ethnic origin, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age or pregnancy/maternity).

The importance of strong leadership and staff training

The guidance notes that strong leadership from the top is crucial in tackling prejudice-based bullying. The school’s leadership team should aim to create a culture and ethos that champions diversity and respect for difference, and which places pupil wellbeing at the heart of the school’s mission. The guidance also emphasises the importance of staff training on bullying and prejudice. Staff need to feel supported in making decisions about how to deal with bullying issues, and know that the leadership team will back them up when they report a problem.

What to do when prejudice-based bullying happens?

The guidance gives the following tips for schools dealing with prejudice-based bullying:

  • have a good reporting system in place: make sure that your reporting system for bullying is flexible, accessible and confidential for everyone, including those with disabilities and additional support needs
  • take every report of bullying seriously: it can be very harmful to a young person if their reports are dismissed
  • don't blame the victim: children should never be told to just ignore it, or to change who they are - it is the children doing the bullying that need to change their behaviour and their attitude
  • avoid stereotypes: it is not true that girls are 'bitchy' and boys have a punch up and get over it - anyone can be capable of bullying behaviour and it has a serious impact on everyone involved
  • find out who else is involved: bullying is very rarely one-on-one behaviour, getting the wider group to change their behaviour can help it to stop
  • know when and where to get outside advice and support: this may be particularly useful when those involved in bullying are coming to terms with their gender or sexual orientation
  • monitor the levels of prejudice-based bullying in your school: this will help you to take action to prevent and tackle it in an informed way
  • learn from bullying incidents and pupil surveys: use these to revise anti-bullying policies and prevention measures

Collecting data about bullying incidents

The guidance encourages schools to collate data to inform and evaluate anti-bullying strategies. The starting point in talking about prejudice-based bullying is identifying the problem. The school should collate data which will enable the leadership team to spot any trends (e.g. identifying particular bullying ‘hot spots’ within the school) or increase in prejudice based bullying. The guidance recommends that schools consider the following questions:

  • How can children and young people report bullying in your school? Can they report anonymously?
  • Can children and young people report through peer mentors, as well as directly to teachers?
  • How can teachers or other staff report incidents? Does the school have a bullying ‘lead’ who staff can raise concerns with?
  • How can parents, carers or other young people report bullying concerns to the school?

The guidance recognises that collecting this data may highlight negative aspects of school life, but notes that ignoring it will do a disservice to young people who may need support.

Monitoring and reviewing data about bullying

Collecting the data is only the starting point, what you do with the data you have collected is more important. The guidance recommends monitoring and reviewing the data collected. The guidance includes a checklist of questions for schools to consider:

  • Is there a simple and accessible template for staff to use to record bullying incidents or concerns with behaviour that may lead to bullying?
  • Does your school currently record all incidents of bullying by protected characteristic and bullying type?
  • Does your school carry out surveys of pupils, staff and parents/carers about bullying?
  • Is there a specific person or team who analyses bullying data at a regular time?
  • How do your senior staff monitor and evaluate bullying incidents? What mechanisms are in place for governors to regularly review bullying data in order to provide effective challenge and support?
  • Are there ways to assess whether bullying incidents may link to wider concerns about a pupil, such as absences and changes in attainment, as well as safeguarding issues?
  • Does the way your school analyses data enable you to spot trends or emerging areas of concern?
  • How do you use your bullying data to inform your anti-bullying strategies and approaches?