Countering Bullying and Peer Abuse


Policies for the Protection of Children
Regulation 34(3)

The Positive Relationships Standard
Regulation 11


This chapter was amended in September 2022 to reflect Keeping Children Safe in Education Statutory Guidance, the outcome of Ofsted’s thematic report, Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. See Section 2, Definition of Bullying and Peer Abuse and Section 3, Responding to Bullying.


  1. A Safe and Supportive Environment
  2. Definition of Bullying and Peer Abuse
  3. Responding to Bullying
  4. Risk Assessment and Planning
  5. Countering Bullying Day-to-Day
  6. Notifications, Recording and Review
  7. Further Information / Specialist Support

1. A Safe and Supportive Environment

All children and young people in our care have a right to feel confident that the home will provide a safe and supportive environment. To this end, children’s home staff should take every step to make sure that individual children and young people are not subject to discrimination, marginalisation or bullying from their peers by virtue of their gender, religion, ethnicity, cultural and linguistic background, sexual identity, mental health, disability or for any other reason.

The registered person has a responsibility to ensure that procedures for dealing with allegations of bullying are in place and staff working in the home have the skills required to intervene, protect and address bullying behaviours effectively.

2. Definition of Bullying and Peer Abuse

Bullying is defined in the Quality Standards as:

"behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally. Bullying can be in many forms and...references to bullying cover bullying of any kind or description".

Peer abuse can include, but is not limited to, bullying (including cyberbullying), gender based violence/sexual assaults and sexting (Keeping Children Safe in Education (DfE)).

Bullying behaviour can take the following forms:

  • Physical - for example, hitting, kicking, pushing, theft;
  • Verbal - for example, threats, name calling, racist or homophobic remarks;
  • Emotional - for example, isolating an individual from activities/games and the social acceptance of their peer group;
  • Cyberbullying - is bullying that takes place using technology. Whether on social media sites, through a mobile phone, or gaming sites, the effects can be devastating for the young person involved;
  • Racist - racial taunts, graffiti, gestures;
  • Sexual - unwanted physical contact or sexually abusive comments or harassment;
  • Homophobic or gender identity - because of, or focusing on the issue of sexuality.

An Ofsted thematic review (Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges (Ofsted)) identified substantial levels of sexual harassment for both girls (90%) and boys (nearly 50%) and that in a number of schools this went unreported as a result of the school's 'culture' – a part of which appeared to be that staff were not aware; did not countenance that this could happen, and because once it was discussed (the children) feared the process would be out of their control.

Sexual harassment and sexual violence exist on a continuum and may overlap. Where the latter occurs, there could be a criminal offence committed.

Bullying often starts with apparently trivial events such as teasing and name calling. Bullying is a type of behaviour which needs to be defined by the impact on the child being bullied rather than by the intention of the perpetrator.

3. Responding to Bullying

The registered person must ensure that procedures for dealing with allegations of bullying are in place and that staff are able to recognise and address different types of abuse such as peer abuse, cyberbullying and bullying in day to day relationships in the home.

Staff must be alert to the risk of bullying and should take all reasonable steps to prevent such behaviour. This includes:

  • Implementing a clear policy within the home/school that bullying is not acceptable;
  • Undertaking risk assessments at point of referral and at appropriate stages thereafter;
  • Providing information and guidance to children on bullying and acceptable behaviour;
  • Providing clarity to children on acceptable behaviours;
  • Providing opportunities for children to explore issues of bullying e.g. writing stories or poems or drawing pictures about bullying;
  • Making use of role-plays;
  • Having regular discussions about bullying and how it can impact on children and young people who are being bullied;
  • Supporting young people who have been bullied.

Staff should respond promptly and effectively to issues of bullying. A part of this must be to recognise where an offence has taken place. Sexual assaults (including rape) are clear examples of this together with the fact that legally a 13 year old child cannot ‘consent’ to intercourse. Additionally, creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. A young person is breaking the law if they:

  • Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend;
  • Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it's shared between children of the same age;
  • Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.

However, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action is not in the public interest.

With effect from 29 June 2021, section 69 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 expanded so-called 'revenge porn' to include threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.

Everyone working in the home shares responsibility for countering bullying and for creating a culture which positively encourages acceptable behaviour and reduces or prevents the likelihood of bullying. Where children attend the same school, staff should work together with educational establishments where bullying occurs between children they both have responsibility for.

Everyone working in the home shares responsibility for countering bullying and for creating a culture which positively encourages acceptable behaviour and reduces or prevents the likelihood of bullying.

4. Risk Assessment and Planning

4.1 Bullying Policy

The registered person must prepare and implement a policy for the prevention of bullying in the home; this must include the procedure for dealing with any allegations of bullying.

The Children's Guide should also contain information and advice on countering bullying.

4.2 Individual Plans for Children

As part of the placement planning process, the child’s social worker must ensure that a risk assessment is conducted to ascertain whether the child has bee bullied or is likely to engage in bullying behaviour.

If there is any risk, it should be addressed in the child's Placement Plan with details of the strategies that must be adopted to prevent or reduce the bullying or bullying behaviour.

5. Countering Bullying Day-to-Day

In order to maintain an effective strategy for dealing with bullying, traditional ideas about bullying should be challenged by everyone working in the home, e.g. by emphasising.

  • It’s NOT only a bit of harmless fun;
  • It’s NOT part of growing up;
  • Children do NOT have to put up with it;
  • Adults getting involved will NOT make it worse.

Clear messages must be given that bullying is not acceptable and children must be reassured that significant adults involved in their lives are dealing with bullying seriously. Some acts of bullying could be a criminal offence.

A climate of openness should be established in which children are not afraid to address issues and incidents of bullying. Children should feel able to approach any member of staff with any concerns.

Consideration should always be given to the existence of any underlying issues in relation to race, gender and sexual orientation. This should be addressed and challenged accordingly. Support should be offered to children for whom English is not their first language to communicate needs and concerns.

Where a child is thought to be exposed to bullying, action should be taken to assess the child’s needs and provide support services.

If the bullying involves a physical assault, as well as seeking medical attention where necessary, consideration should be given to whether there are any child protection or safeguarding issues to consider.

Creating an anti-bullying climate can be achieved by:

  • Demonstrating low tolerance of minor bullying – dealing with incidents at the earliest sign;
  • Never ignoring victims of bullying, always showing an interest/concern;
  • Publicly acknowledging the bullied child’s distress;
  • Organising quality groups/circles, which allow children to work together to identify their own problems, causes and solutions with sensitive facilitators.

Staff in the home may have to deal with the perpetrators as well as the victims of bullying. It should be borne in mind that bullying behaviour may in itself be an indication of previous abuse or exposure to violence. The focus should be on the bullying behaviour rather than the child and, where possible, the reasons for the behaviour should be explored and dealt with. A clear explanation of the extent of the upset the bullying has caused should be given to the young person who perpetrated the bullying behaviour and they should be encouraged to see the bullied child’s points of view.

A restorative approach and the use of restorative enquiry and subsequent mediation between those involved can provide an opportunity to meet the needs of all concerned. The child who has been bullied has the chance to say how he or she has been affected. The opportunity is provided for the child doing the bullying to understand the impact of their actions and to make amends.

Both the child engaged in bullying behaviour and those who are the target of bullying should then be closely monitored. The times, places and circumstances in which the risk of bullying is greatest should be ascertained and action taken to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Whatever plan of action is implemented, it must be reviewed at regular intervals to ascertain whether interventions by staff have been successful.

Where bullying exists in the context of gang behaviour, there should be an institutional, as well as an individual, response to this.

6. Notifications, Recording and Review

6.1 Minor or Non Persistent Bullying

Where bullying is not persistent or not serious it should be notified to the home’s manager at the first opportunity; the manager will decide whether to inform the child’s social worker and what further actions to take.

6.2 Persistent or Serious Bullying

Serious or persistent bullying must be notified immediately to the home's manager and the relevant social worker notified within 1 working day. Consideration should be given as to whether a Child Protection Referral is required, if so, see Referring Safeguarding Concerns Procedure.

6.3 Recording and Review

All incidents must be recorded in the Home's Daily Log and the relevant child's Daily Record.

An Incident Report must also be completed (where it is possible the specific category of bullying e.g. verbal/physical/cyberbullying should be identified and highlighted in the incident report so that different incidents of bullying can be monitored as required).

The child's Placement Plan should be reviewed with a view to incorporating strategies to reduce or prevent future incidents.

7. Further Information / Specialist Support

See also: Advice for Parents and Carers on Cyberbullying (Department for Education, 2015).

Specialist Organisations:

  • The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA): Founded in 2002 by NSPCC and National Children's Bureau, the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) brings together over 100 organisations into one network to develop and share good practice across the whole range of bullying issues;
  • Kidscape: Charity established to prevent bullying and promote child protection providing advice for young people, professionals and parents about different types of bullying and how to tackle it. They also offer specialist training and support for school staff, and assertiveness training for young people;
  • The Diana Award: Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme to empower young people to take responsibility for changing the attitudes and behaviour of their peers towards bullying. It will achieve this by identifying, training and supporting school anti-bullying ambassadors;
  • The BIG Award: The Bullying Intervention Group (BIG) offer a national scheme and award for schools to tackle bullying effectively.


  • ChildNet International: Specialist resources for young people to raise awareness of online safety and how to protect themselves;
  • Internet Watch Foundation: (for reporting illegal images and content);
  • Think U Know: Resources provided by Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) for children and young people, parents, carers and teachers;
  • Digizen: Provide online safety information for educators, parents, carers and young people;
  • Advice on Child Internet Safety 1.0: The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has produced universal guidelines for providers on keeping children safe online.


  • Schools Out: Offers practical advice, resources (including lesson plans) and training to schools on LGBT equality in education;
  • Stonewall: An LGB equality organisation with considerable expertise in LGB bullying in schools, a dedicated youth site, resources for schools, and specialist training for teachers.



  • Show Racism the Red Card: Provide resources and workshops for schools to educate young people, often using the high profile of football, about racism;
  • Kick it Out: Uses the appeal of football to educate young people about racism and provide education packs for schools;
  • Anne Frank Trust: Runs a schools project to teach young people about Anne Frank and the Holocaust, the consequences of unchecked prejudice and discrimination, and cultural diversity.