This week’s ‘Board Against Bullying’ article has been written by Mark Holliday, Deputy Head of Education Inclusion & Participation in the London Borough of Wandsworth. Mark is the anti-bullying lead in the borough and provides anti-bullying policy and practice support to schools and educational settings. Mark also sits on the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s Advisory Group and is Chair of Governors at a primary school.

The Department for Education’s advice on behaviour states that schools must have an effective anti-bullying strategy in place to ensure bullying is prevented as much as possible. In my experience, schools tend to produce comprehensive stand-alone anti-bullying policies that not only mention how they work to prevent bullying, but provide a lot more information about reporting, recording, intervention, and the part everyone in school plays to keep children safe at school, at home, and in the community.

Effective anti-bullying strategies have several key elements of which governing boards should be aware. Based on the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s ‘Ten Key Principles’, key elements should include:

  • Prevention – An outline of what schools do to prevent bullying from happening. This could be specific activities, such as friendship groups or peer support programmes. It can be more generally about a school’s ethos and principles such as the extent to which pupils, parents, and staff are involved in developing a school’s definition of bullying, how this is communicated, and how schools celebrate difference, promote inclusion, and challenge discriminatory language.
  • Intervention – An overview of how the school responds when staff become aware of alleged bullying taking place, including how the school listens to pupils’ concerns and works to understand them – and, importantly, how leaders act on what’s reported.
  • The role of trusted adults – How teachers, support staff, and everyone else who works in school acts as positive role models to pupils and how well people are treated. This can include how well schools value, promote, and support the well-being of everyone in the school community, which is a key focus for schools post-pandemic.

To conclude, here are my top five tips for governors looking to assess the efficacy of an anti-bullying strategy:

  1. Make sure you know who your school’s anti-bullying lead is. This role would usually be taken up by a member of the senior leadership team. Remember that bullying features under leadership and management in Ofsted inspections (as well as behaviour & attitudes and safeguarding).
  2. Know what Ofsted inspectors will be looking for. You can find everything you need in the School Inspection Handbook.
  3. Read your school’s anti-bullying policy and see how it links with other school policies, namely the behaviour, safeguarding, equalities, complaints, and e-safety policies. There may be others too.
  4. Ask your school how it involves pupils, parents and staff in the review of the anti-bullying policy. Sometimes schools will involve the whole school community in anti-bullying work but not reflect this in the policy itself. Sadly, this is a real missed opportunity to showcase all the amazing work that goes on day-in-day out – not just during Anti-Bullying Week.
  5. Talk to pupils in your school about how safe they feel at school, as well as on the way to and from school. Schools have the power to discipline pupils for misbehaving outside of the school premises under certain conditions, including during school-organised activities, during journeys to and from school, when wearing school uniform, or when identifiable as a pupil at the school.

Wondering how to observe Anti-Bullying Week? Volunteer as a governor today!

Are you wondering how you can make a difference this Anti-Bullying Week? As Mark demonstrates, governors play a vital role in shaping schools’ anti-bullying strategies and ensuring children learn in a safe and welcoming environment. If you’re feeling motivated to tackle bullying and make a difference in your community, why not volunteer your skills as a governor? Register your interest today and our friendly team will guide you through the application process.