Bullying can affect every school and takes many different forms. Left unchecked, bullying can significantly impact pupils’ lives, harm educational outcomes, and detrimentally affect the running of a school. As such, governors must ensure school leaders are doing everything in their power to prevent bullying behaviours and nurture a culture of kindness and mutual respect among pupils.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of example questions you can pose to senior leaders during board meetings. While raising sensitive issues such as bullying can be uncomfortable, it’s your responsibility as a governor to ensure the school is protecting pupils and minimizing harm. Some of the following questions are more likely to affect secondary school pupils than primary pupils. However, it’s useful for all governors to consider the many ways in which bullying can affect young people to ensure they’re prepared to address tough situations.


Policy and compliance questions

Schools must comply with legislation designed to prevent all forms of bullying. It is the duty of governors, therefore, to hold school leaders to account and ensure the school is not in breach of any laws. Key compliance questions to ask include:

1. Have board members and school leaders read the latest guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE) about preventing and tackling bullying?

2. According to the DfE guidance, “Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 provides that maintained schools must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. These measures should be part of the school’s behaviour policy which must be communicated to all pupils, school staff and parents.”

  • If you govern at a maintained school in England, does it comply with these rules?
  • What is included in the behaviour policy? Is it fit for purpose?
  • How often does the school review the behaviour policy?

3. If you govern a Welsh school, the Welsh Government has its own guidance on how schools can prevent bullying. Key aspects of the guidance include expectations that policies are reviewed every three years and schools link their anti-bullying policies to their safeguarding and behavioural policies.

  • Have board members and school leaders read this guidance?
  • Does the school live up to the expectations set out in the guidance?
  • How are school leaders working to address any policy gaps.

4. Is the school’s safeguarding policy updated to account for the latest Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) guidance?

  • How does the policy minimise the risk of child-on-child abuse?
  • Do pupils have clear processes for reporting bullying incidents?
  • Does the school have procedures in place to detect abuse that goes unreported?
  • Do staff members know about the many different ways in which child-on-child abuse occurs?


General school culture and anti-bullying questions

1. Do we all understand how bullying is defined in our school?

  • How does the school nurture a culture of kindness?
  • How does the school convey a “no-tolerance” attitude towards bullying to pupils, staff, and parents?

2. Do pupils and parents know what bullying looks like?

  • Are pupils taught about the harms of bullying behaviours? When does this take place? Is it included in the PSHE curriculum, for example?
  • How does the school measure pupil/parent awareness about bullying?
  • Does the school involve pupils in shaping anti-bullying policy?

3. Do staff know what bullying looks like and how to address incidents of abuse?

  • Are staff adequately educated about bullying during induction?
  • Does anti-bullying training take place? How often? Who delivers the sessions?
  • Do staff have access to clear guidance about how to respond to allegations of abuse?
  • How does the school measure and confirm that staff can recognise the signs of child-on-child abuse?
  • Do staff members receive regular child protection updates?

4. Pupils with special educational needs (SEND) are three times more likely to experience bullying than their peers, according to KCSIE.

  • Are staff aware of this problem?
  • What procedures and policies are in place to protect SEND pupils from abuse?

5. Is the school proactive about creating a more welcoming and nurturing environment?

  • Are parents and pupils consulted about anti-bullying approaches and policies? How could they get more involved with addressing any issues with the school environment or culture? Does the school run surveys or focus groups, for example?
  • Are there any issues within the local community that could contribute to bullying behaviours? Is there a way the school can address these issues?
  • Are there any third parties involved in your school’s anti-bullying program? For example, are there any anti-bullying workshops that could help? How do we measure the success and cost-efficiency of external programmes?
  • Does the school have an anti-bullying lead? If not, are there any staff who could be appointed to such a position?
  • Do children in school feel safe? How do we measure this?


Questions about anti-bullying trends and incidents           

1.How are bullying incidents in school monitored and tracked?

  • Are these monitoring systems effective?
  • Are there any tools we could use to improve tracking systems?

2. How does the school respond to bullying incidents?

  • Do procedures follow statutory guidance?
  • What policies are in place to protect at-risk children?
  • Is support tailored for specific age groups/developmental stages?
  • How does the school deal with prejudice-based bullying?

3. While most forms of bullying do not constitute criminal offences, some types of threatening behaviour and harassment do break the law.

  • Is the school aware of this distinction?
  • Does the school have clear procedures in place to report criminal offences?
  • How does the school deal with major incidents?
  • Does the school have protocols in place to deal with reputational damage caused by major incidents or repeated accounts of bullying?

4. What are the school’s policies for managing parental complaints?

  • Do staff receive training or support for managing formal complaints?

5. Are there any trends in bullying incidents at the school?

  • Are there any year groups in which bullying is a particular issue? If so, are there protocols in place to detect and address the source of the problem?
  • Are there any demographics or groups of children who face higher rates of bullying in school? How is this recorded? What is the school doing to support these young people?

6. Are there any areas in the school where bullying tends to take place?

  • How does the school identify key hotspots?
  • How can the school address problem areas? Is there scope to boost staff supervision, install CCTV etc.?

7. Are there policies in place to support pupils who abuse their peers?

  • Children who display abusive behaviours are often subject to abuse themselves.


Cyberbullying questions

1. Cyberbullying comprises a wide range of bullying behaviours and changes in line with technological trends. Does the school have a robust and detailed cyberbullying policy?

  • How often is the policy reviewed?
  • Does the school update the policy in line with recent incidents of bullying?

2. Are there provisions in place to educate children about cyberbullying and staying safe online?

  • In what context does this learning take place? Is it included in the computing or PSHE curriculum?

3. Is the school’s IT infrastructure equipped to catch and prevent incidents of abuse?

  • What software and technologies are in place to capture cyberbullying incidents that take place on school premises?
  • How does the school measure the efficacy of these technologies? Are there any external organisations that could help improve provisions?

4. Sexual harassment and cyberbullying are closely related. Are staff aware of this? How does the school address this issue?

  • Does the school’s RSE curriculum follow statutory guidance about how to teach issues like sexual harassment, consent, and sexual violence?
  • Are pupils able to discuss sensitive topics openly (e.g., the dangers of sending ‘nudes’ online)?


Want to discover more from the #BoardsAgainstBullying campaign? Go to our webpage, for a full list of resources.