Virtually everyone knows someone who has experienced bullying. As mentioned in our launch article, bullying behaviours are endemic across the education system, with almost a third of school leaders reporting that child-on-child abuse occurs at least twice a week in their schools. Despite the high prevalence of bullying, myths continue to circulate about why abusive behaviour occurs and how to address it.

To help clear up any confusion and ensure governors don’t fall into common traps when addressing bullying, we’ve busted a few common misconceptions below.

Myth #1. Bullying always involves active participation in abuse

While many people consider bullying behaviour to involve physical violence, verbal threats, and active targeting of others, bystanders who watch and encourage abuse to take place are also participants. The reasons why bullying takes place are complex, and group dynamics often play a role. As such, it’s worth supporting school leaders to find out why some pupils may be reluctant to speak up. The Anti-Bullying Alliance has plenty of resources about discouraging pupils from standing by when they witness physical and verbal bullying.

Myth #2. Bullying is a normal part of school life

Young people are not ‘naturally’ inclined toward bullying, and abusive behaviour should not be tolerated in any form. In fact, consistent bullying can damage a young person’s confidence and cause problems in later life. If you’re wondering how governors can help leaders nurture a kinder and more welcoming atmosphere in school, Bullies Out has provided a helpful guidance document about whole-school approaches to anti-bullying, which you can find on our resources page.

Myth #3. Bullying only occurs in school 

Bullying doesn’t just occur in the playground. As noted in our article about online bullying, young people are particularly vulnerable when interacting in spaces with little adult oversight. As such, ensuring that leaders and other staff members are attuned to the potential ways children may experience outside of school and have policies to detect and address incidents.

Myth #4. Reporting bullying will only make the problem worse

Young people are sometimes reluctant to tell teachers they’re being bullied for fear of repercussions. As such, governors and leaders should work together to develop robust reporting methods that protect those on the receiving end of bullying and try to address the underlying issues behind abusive behaviour. Bullying behaviour doesn’t come out of nowhere, with many children adopting abusive behaviour due to unstable home lives or personal experiences of victimisation. Adopting a holistic approach that promotes honest conversation and a whole-school approach to anti-bullying will help give children the confidence they need to speak out.

Myth #5. It’s easy to spot when someone’s being bullied

Teachers, parents, and young people often believe that the signs of bullying are easy to spot. However, young people often display very subtle changes in behaviour when they’re being bullied, and may even seem happy and bubbly on the surface. Key warning signs could include:

  • Unexplained bruises or marks
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Physical signs of stress, such as abdominal pain or headaches
  • An aversion to using the internet
  • Changes in appetite
  • Angry outbursts and mood swings
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family members
  • Avoiding extracurricular activities
  • Coming home with damaged possessions
  • An increased number of sick days off school

It is worth making teachers, parents, and young people aware of the more subtle signs of bullying so they can discuss any issues with trusted teachers and leaders at an early stage. The Anti-Bullying Alliance has produced a helpful advice pack for parents and carers who need help getting to grips with the signs and effects of bullying.

Ready to make a difference and tackle bullying? Volunteer as a governor today!

As you can see, bullying is a complex issue that requires consistent care and attention in schools. If you’re looking to make a difference in young people’s lives, why not volunteer as a governor today? We’ll work hard to match you with a school that benefits from your skills and expertise.