Schools must record all bullying incidents as well as details of motivation and method
SCHOOLS have been told they must record all incidents of bullying as well as keep details of the motivation and method.
New statutory guidance for principals and boards of governors of all grant-aided schools has been produced to support the implementation of the Addressing Bullying in Schools Act.
The new legislation will come into operation at the start of the next academic year.
The act received Royal Assent in 2016 but has been held up since.
There is no requirement at present to report every occurrence of bullying, and no detailed figures have ever existed.
The guidance explains why schools must now have an anti-bullying policy, what it must cover and the role of the governing body and head teachers in shaping it.
It covers four key points:
:: Schools must have a preventative anti-bullying policy which is updated at least every four years
:: Boards of governors must be involved in developing and ensuring effective implementation of the policy
:: Schools must engage with pupils, parents/carers and the school community when developing and reviewing the policy
:: Schools must record incidents of bullying and alleged bullying behaviours including the motivation, method, how the incident was addressed and the outcome
The definition of bullying behaviour should be summarised as "usually repeated behaviour that intentionally hurts, harms or adversely affects the rights and needs of another or others", the guidance says.
However, it adds that bullying behaviours are not limited to repetition. Schools have the discretion to include one-off acts provided their policy stipulates that they will be treated as bullying.
The document includes a case study, involving social media, to demonstrate how a one-off incident could be interpreted as bullying.
For the first time "all alleged incidents of bullying must be recorded", the guidance states.
"It is important to have a fully transparent system so that reported incidents can be taken forward in line with the school policy and can be traced through the system as having been resolved by the school," it adds.
"The school will be able to record whether the alleged incident of bullying is confirmed and responded to through the anti-bullying policy, or if the alleged incident is responded to under another policy. It will be useful for the school to gather information on how many alleged incidents were reported and how many are confirmed incidents of bullying.
"This may present the evidence for opportunities to raise awareness with pupils, parents/carers and the community as to the definition of bullying."
When recording details of incidents, schools must ensure the identities of any child involved is protected.
The motivation behind the bullying behaviour must also be recorded by the school. These include, but are not limited to: age, appearance, breakdown in peer relationships, race, community background, sexual orientation and gender identity.
"The Department of Education may issue guidance of how schools should record incidents to comply with this requirement," the guidance adds.
"Schools must have due regard for this guidance."
WHILE there are about 200 suspensions for bullying in schools every year, the full extent of the problem is said, by teachers, to be much greater.
The Department of Education only undertakes periodic research into the bullying experiences of pupils.
The new legislation, which was drafted several years ago but is only now coming into force, is likely to expose the true scale.
It is designed to bring renewed focus for schools to the issue and deliver greater consistency and impact in the treatment of all forms of bullying.
The legislation will provide a legal definition of bullying; introduce a requirement for schools to record all incidents and require boards of governors to take direct responsibility for developing and monitoring the effectiveness of anti-bullying policy and practice within schools.
Bullying is a complex issue with no single, easy solution, however.
The education minister has said everyone has a part to play in creating a society and an education system in which bullying behaviour is always challenged and dealt with effectively as soon as it rears its head.
He says schools must be welcoming places.
Therefore, issues such as bullying must be dealt with to ensure that all young people enjoy their school days and make the most of their time there to ensure they reach their full potential.