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A survey of 2,347 12-16 year-olds carried out by Ditch the Label in 2019, found that 51% of those surveyed reported an involvement in bullying in the past 12 months.


With approximately 8.1 million pupils in all schools in England, this means that over 4,000,000 children and young people in our country could be going to bed worrying about bullying, having their learning opportunities, educational achievement and, potentially, their lives ruined because of it.


Recent research has shown that children are five times more likely to be bullied at school than at online. Moreover, it has established that, 90% of cases of online bullying had started at school.


The devastating and long-lasting effects of bullying on people are well known.  Bullying presents a considerable threat to mental health and well-being and can trigger anxiety and depression.  It causes considerable stress and in worse case scenarios victims have taken their own life.  Children and young people frequently say that bullying is one of the main reasons they do not attend school.


When those bullied were asked how it impacted them, the most common responses were feeling depressed (45%), anxious (41%) and having suicidal thoughts (33%).



Bullying and the Law

Bullying in itself is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, however the 2002 Education Act Section 175 placed a requirement on schools to safeguard and promote children’s well-being, as well as their academic achievement.  'Keeping Children Safe in Schools', the statutory guidance under Section 175 issued in 2016 and followed by a number of updates, specifically covers heath, safety and bullying in addition to child protection.


The Education and Inspections Act in 2006 gave headteachers the power to regulate the behaviour of pupils outside of school; this extends to cyber-bullying behaviour. The Education Act 2011 gives additional powers to screen, search for and confiscate electronic devices, including the power to delete certain content (see DfE Guidance for conditions for these powers.

Many types of behaviour that could be described as bullying are covered by legislation and can be prosecuted as criminal offences under a number of acts of Parliament, for example:


  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997

  • Malicious Communications Act 1988

  • Communications Act 2003

  • Public Order Act 1986


  • The Equality Act 2010 which establishes school's duties to prevent discrimination, harassment and vicimization with reference to the following 'protected characteristics': age, being or becoming a transexual person, being married or in a civil partnership, being pregnant or having a child, disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation'


DfE guidance, updated on in July 2017, states that ‘if school staff feel that an offence may have been committed they should seek assistance from the police. For example, under the Malicious Communication Act 1988, any person who sends an electronic communication which conveys a message which is indecent or grossly offensive, a threat, or information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender, is guilty of an offence if their purpose in sending it was to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient.



Securing Safety, Mental Health and Wellbeing for All




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Bullying in Schools

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