Approaches to preventing and tackling bullying

Approaches to preventing and tackling bullying

On 13 June 2018 the Department for Education (DfE) published research to recognise anti-bullying practices schools have found effective. The DfE commissioned CooperGibson Research (CGR) to conduct interviews with senior leaders in schools, identifying some favourable approaches to combat bullying.

There is no legal requirement on schools to record and report on incidents of bullying. The DfE’s advice is that schools should develop their own approaches for monitoring bullying and exercise their own judgement as to what works best for their pupils.

Common approaches to preventing and tackling bullying

  • Whole school approach – ensuring the entire school is clear on behaviour expectations and is sending out a consistent message on bullying. The school ethos and values are highly visible throughout the school and clear behaviour/anti-bullying policies and punishments are reviewed and kept updated.
  • Preventative practices – aimed to reduce the number of bullying incidents that occur by tackling the prejudice and increasing empathy and understanding for others through awareness and education. The approach is aimed at teaching pupils to develop an understanding that they should not engage in bullying behaviour because it is not the right thing to do, rather than just because they are told to.
  • Inclusive environment – encourages diversity and equality and pupils are encouraged to celebrate people’s differences. The approach is aimed at creating a collective understanding on the power of words which can cause harm to others if used in the wrong way.
  • Anti-bullying awareness – many schools hold a range of activities during Anti-Bullying Week. Awareness is often maintained by highly visible anti-bullying posters throughout the school, assemblies where this is a theme, and integrating themes into lessons.
  • Empowering pupils – providing pupils with an anti-bullying role, such as a Prefect, playground monitor, being highly visible, usually wearing a badge or different coloured clothing can be seen as an effective way of preventing bullying. Pupils encouraged to generate ideas and take ownership of anti-bullying activities, were seen in the research as some of the most powerful ways for preventing and tackling bullying.
  • Response time to bullying incidents – rapid response to any incident of unkind or bullying behaviour was essential to avoid escalation and involves parents on both sides were immediately contacted about any instances of bullying. The rapid responses also gave pupils confidence that bullying will be dealt with and will not be tolerated. In order to respond quickly, schools have created ways for pupils to report bullying, such as bully boxes, a bully email address and pupil- led anti-bullying support roles.

Challenges faced with tackling bullying

  • Lack of engagement with parents/carers – the research highlighted that it can be challenging contacting parents. One approach from one of the schools from the research was to have an ‘open door policy’ encouraging parents to come in and speak to the school at any time.
  • Keeping up to date with online trends – with technology and social media constantly changing, schools found it challenging keeping up with those trends, especially with the increase in pupils having unsupervised access to the internet on their own phones.
  • Incidents outside of school – schools do have the power to intervene and teachers can discipline for cyberbullying that occurs outside of school. Where bullying is reported to teachers, whether in or outside of school, it should be acted upon, as this can have the potential to impact pupils inside school.
  • Collaborating with other schools – some schools do collaborate with other schools, increasing the exposure to diversity and sharing anti- bullying resources. Although the research found the collaboration could be greater.


The DfE research is intended to be used as a resource by schools looking for examples of anti- bullying practices. The research offers various techniques and practices used by some schools. The underlying principle is that schools are best placed to drive their own improvements and they are held to account for their effectiveness through Ofsted.

For more information or assistance, please contact the Education team.