This page provides information on the duties of schools and Local Authorities to prevent and tackle bullying in schools and action that can be taken by a parent or child to address bullying.

What is bullying?

Bullying is defined in departmental advice published by the Dfe as: 

‘Behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’

Bullying is defined on the website and states that the four key characteristics of bullying are that it is:

  • Repetitive and persistent;
  • Intentionally harmful;
  • Involving an imbalance of power;
  • Causing feels of distress, fear, loneliness or lack of confidence. 

What duties does a school have to safeguard children?

Section 175 Education Act 2002

This section places a legal duty on maintained schools and Local Authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Section 175 requires two types of arrangements to be used: 

  • to take all reasonable measures to ensure that risks of harm to children’s welfare are minimised;
  • to take all appropriate action to address concerns about the welfare of a child, or children, working to agreed local policies and procedures in full partnership with other local agencies

Section 89 Education Inspections Act 2006

Head-teachers of maintained schools and academies must determine measures with a view to encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils, and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying amongst pupils. 

The measures determined by the head-teacher must be publicised in the form of a written document (anti-bullying policy). 

Children Act 1989 

A bullying incident should be addressed as a child protection concern when there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’. If this is the case, the school staff should report their concerns to their local authority children’s social care.

The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 (Part 3)

Academies and independent schools are required to ensure that arrangements are made to safeguard and promote the welfare of pupils at the school. The proprietor must ensure that bullying at the schools is prevented in so far as reasonably practicable, by the drawing up and implementation of an effective anti-bullying policy. 

Preventing and tackling bullying

Departmental advice.


The Advice states that a school’s response to bullying should not start at the point at which a child has been bullied. It notes that the best schools develop an approach to bullying in which school staff proactively gather information about issues between pupils which might provoke conflict and develop strategies to prevent bullying occurring in the first place. This might involve talking to pupils about issues of difference, perhaps in lessons, through dedicated events or projects, or through assemblies. Staff themselves will be able to determine what will work best for their pupils, depending on the particular issues they need to address. 


School anti-bullying policies and behaviour and disciplinary policies should set out the actions which can be taken to address bullying. The Guidance states that schools should apply disciplinary measures to pupils who bully, in order to show clearly that their behaviour is wrong. Disciplinary measures must be applied fairly, consistently, and reasonably, taking account of any special educational needs or disabilities that the pupils may have and the needs of vulnerable pupils.

Should I take my child out of school?

When parents discover that their child is being bullied, their immediate response is often to remove their child from school until the matter has been dealt with. This is problematic, as the school will treat the absence as unauthorised. 

Section 444(1) Education Act 1996 provides that if a registered pupil of compulsory school age fails to attend school regularly, the parent is guilty of an offence. Therefore, periods of unauthorised absence can result in you being prosecuted for failing to ensure your child’s attendance at school. 

There are options that can be explored in these circumstances including:

  • Home Education;
  • Managed Moves;
  • In-Year transfer;
  • Authorised absence ;
  • Request alternative education from the LA under S.19

Please see our How-to guide on Bullying for further information. 

Going further

More detailed information can be found in our How-to Guide. Please note that a fee is charged for this service.