Bullying: What to do when bullying is very serious

If the bullying is so bad that your child is too frightened to go to school or if you fear for their safety, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • You may decide to keep your child off school until the matter is resolved. Legally you must send your child to school regularly. If you keep your child at home, you will have to write to the head with your reasons and provide a doctor’s sick note to show that your child is unwell.
  • If the bullying is extremely serious (either physical or verbal), the police may need to be involved. The laws that they can use against pupils of 10 years and over are laws against assault or harassment.
  • If you decide to make a formal complaint that the school is failing in its duty of care towards your child, ensure that you follow the school’s complaints procedure. Keep copies of your correspondence – you may need to refer to it later. If there are no procedures, write to the chair of governors. (You could ask a solicitor to write your letter of complaint.)
  • If there is no satisfactory action following your complaint to the school, you should then write to the director of education at your local authority – some local authorities have dedicated anti-bullying officers who can work with you, your child and the school to resolve issues of bullying. As a last resort, you can write to the Department for Education. The department will not investigate unless you have exhausted all the other routes, and your child remains on the roll of the school where the bullying occurred.
  • You could speak to a solicitor about legal action. However, be aware that such actions are a long, uphill struggle that can be an emotional and financial drain on all the family, with no guarantee of a positive result.

If the school seems incapable of stopping the bullying, you may want to think about sending your child to a different school. Before you do this, be sure your child is feeling more confident. Otherwise, their vulnerability may be spotted and the problem could begin again at the new school.

How to avoid mobile phone bullying

More and more children are using mobile phones to bully others. The most recent – and very worrying – trend is to send a videophone film of an innocent person being hit or bullied to friends. This is known as ‘happy slapping’. Other ways of bullying using a mobile phone include messaging and texting.

Tips for parents

  • Always encourage your child to talk about how they use their mobile. If they seem worried about phone calls, bring up the idea of malicious calls and messages.
  • If your child knows the sender of bullying messages and is at the same school, contact their class teacher as soon as possible, even if the phone calls and texts happen outside of school hours.
  • Keep a record of the calls and texts to show the school.
  • Arrange for the number to be changed as soon as possible.
  • Talk to your service provider.  Most providers operate a Malicious Calls helpdesk as part of customer services.
  • Report ‘happy slapping’ to the police if you are at all concerned about the level of violent information sent to your child’s video phone.

Tips for children

  • Don’t give any information about yourself (phone numbers, address etc) unless you know and trust the caller.
  • Don’t leave alternative contact details as part of a mailbox greeting.
  • Do check the caller ID – if there is an unknown number or no number is displayed, you should not answer the call.
  • If you do answer a bullying call, if possible place your phone near loud music or traffic noise.
  • Do divert calls to a mailbox without answering them. Any message left can then be used to prove the bullying.
  • Be very careful who you give your number to and ask those you have given it to not to pass it on.

Dealing with bullying text messages

  • Don’t reply – it could be to the wrong number! Show the messages to a trusted family member, teacher or parent.
  • Keep the message as evidence of the call being made.
  • Make a note of the sender’s number or originating details at the end of the message.

Building your children’s self-esteem

  • Listen to your children – value their feelings and opinions.
  • Accept and acknowledge feelings and needs – yours and theirs.
  • Take time to be with your child and focus on them.
  • Value your children for who they are and show you love them.
  • Give them choices and responsibility they can manage.• When something upsets you make it clear that it’s their actions that are the problem and not them.
  • Appreciate what they do.

How bullying can affect you as a parent

Wanting your child to be safe and happy is natural. If your child is being bullied or is bullying others, you may feel angry, hurt, guilty, helpless or afraid. Memories of your own childhood may complicate your feelings about what is happening to your children. You may find yourself wanting to take some of these feelings out on the other children involved or on the school, but this won’t help your child.

What can help

  • Acknowledge that the bullying is very painful for you too.
  • Accept that you need support to deal with your own feelings about it, so that you can support your child.
  • Talk to another adult about the feelings or memories that have been triggered.


Page last reviewed: 21/04/2022

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