Anti-Bullying Policy

1. Policy statement

1.1  Scope:  This policy applies to all students and staff at the College irrespective of their age and whether or not a student is in the care of the College when/if bullying behaviour occurs.  While this policy focuses mainly on the bullying of students by other students, it is recognised that other forms of bullying may occur and this is addressed in Section 5.2.3.

1.2  Publication: This policy is provided to all parents and students in the Student Handbook, to all staff in the Staff Manual and is also available on request in the College office. In addition, the policy is published on the College website.

1.3  Policy aims:  Through the operation of this policy we aim:

  • to maintain and drive a positive and supportive culture among all students and staff throughout the College; and
  • to deter bullying behaviour, detect it when it occurs, and deal with it by counselling and/or disciplinary sanctions and, if necessary, by expulsion.

1.4  Bullying behaviour is always unacceptable and will not be tolerated at the College because:

  • it is harmful to the person who is bullied, to those who engage in bullying behaviour and those who support them, and can in some cases lead to lasting psychological damage including suicide;
  • it interferes with a student’s right to enjoy his/her learning and leisure time free from intimidation; and
  • it is contrary to all our aims and values, our internal culture and the reputation of the College.

2. Bullying behaviour

2.1 Meaning:  Bullying is a form of abusive behaviour, psychological or physical, which hurts or causes distress by taking unfair advantage of another person in some way, making the victim feel uncomfortable or threatened.  Bullying may be:

  • physical – hitting, kicking, pushing people around, spitting; or taking, damaging or hiding possessions;
  • verbal – name-calling, taunting, teasing, insulting or demanding money;
  • exclusionary – intimidating, isolating or excluding a person from a group;
  • general unkindness – spreading rumours or writing unkind notes, phone texts or emails; or
  • cyberbullying – please refer to section 2.2 below.

Bullying may also be:

  • sexist – related to a person’s gender;
  • racist, or regarding someone’s religion or culture;
  • related to a person’s sexual orientation (homophobic);
  • related to a person’s home circumstances;
  • related to a person’s disability, health or appearance; 
  • sexual – talking to or touching someone in a sexually inappropriate way.

2.2  Cyberbullying:  The College has a separate policy which deals with “cyberbullying” (see Acceptable Use Policy).  Cyberbullying is the use of the internet, mobile phones, social networking sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked in, email messaging, etc) to deliberately upset someone else with offensive and/or humiliating material or comments.

2.3  Intention:  Not all bullying is deliberate or intended to hurt.  Some individuals may see their hurtful conduct as ‘teasing’ or ‘a game’ or ‘for the good of’ the other person. These forms of bullying are equally unacceptable but may not be malicious and can often be corrected quickly with advice and without disciplinary sanctions.  A bully who does not respond appropriately to advice or sanctions would ultimately have to leave the College.

2.4 Responsibility:  It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure, whatever the circumstances, that no-one becomes a victim of bullying.  A person may be vulnerable to bullying because of his/her age, physical appearance, nationality, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, culture or disability, or because s/he is new in the College, appears to be uncertain or has no friends.  S/he may also become a target because of an irrational decision by a bully.

As a matter of safeguarding concern, all incidents of bullying must be referred to the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL). As a matter of behaviour and discipline, all incidents of bullying must also be referred to the Director of Studies who will treat it as a disciplinary offence. As with all safeguarding concerns, the DSL will be responsible for dealing with both victim and perpetrator and developing ongoing programmes of monitoring and support as well as recording and reviewing all relevant notes, including interviews, witness statements and reports from professionals such as social workers or psychologists as appropriate.   

2.5  Legal aspects:  A person who makes a physical or sexual assault on another, or who steals or causes damage to the property of another, commits a criminal offence and also a civil wrong known as a ‘tort’ for which there can be legal consequences outside the College. Bullying behaviour may also be regarded as threatening behaviour or harassment which can be either a criminal offence or a civil wrong.

3. Anti-bullying culture

3.1  Anti-bullying ethos:  Our expectation of all members of the College community is that the welfare of students (and staff) is the College’s primary concern. Bullying is a form of abuse which contravenes our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and should be dealt with in accordance with this policy. Any complaint of bullying will always be taken seriously and no form of bullying will be tolerated.

3.2  Equal opportunities:  Ashbourne’s Equal Opportunities Policy provides full details of the College’s commitment. This policy aims to protect any member of the College who may be deemed vulnerable with respect to a disability, sexual orientation, race or religion, particularly in relation to bullying. The College is committed to a culture which provides equal opportunities and is free from bullying.

3.3  Staff:  Members of staff are expected to uphold our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. Ashbourne extends itself to ensure that all staff are fully briefed on current safeguarding issues including bullying, from induction upon joining the Ashbourne community to training at INSET days during the course of each academic year. Safeguarding is part of every staff meeting whether departmental, heads of faculty, Senior Leadership Team or plenary. Staff are also made aware of the importance of basic interviewing techniques should they be the first to know of a bullying incident through a meeting with the victim(s).

Staff are aware of the importance of the DSL in maintaining a vital safeguarding culture and are trained and encouraged to relay all concerns regarding safeguarding or bullying to the DSL in person or through our intranet (‘behaviour share’). They are also aware of their duty in extreme cases of bullying, for example, to inform the local Children’s Social Services (CSC) or the police. In all such circumstances the DSL must always be informed and the informing member of staff has a duty to follow up the concern to ensure that it is being dealt with.

3.4  Students:  Students are introduced to our culture which promotes safeguarding and equal opportunities when they receive their induction at registration. This awareness is reinforced through our PSHEE and Personal Tutor programmes. The Students’ Council also has a role to play in promoting a culture which does not tolerate bullying. 

Students are encouraged:

  • to celebrate the effort and achievements of others;
  • to hold and promote a positive attitude;
  • to feel able to share problems with staff;
  • to turn to someone they trust if they have a problem;
  • not to feel guilty about airing complaints.

4. Anti-bullying systems

4.1 Approach:  Our systems for detecting and dealing with bullying are designed to operate:

  • vertically, through all year groups; and
  • horizontally, within year groups and in the classroom and other activities.

Our anti-bullying systems are implemented and driven in the way described below.

4.2  Vigilance:  Members of staff are vigilant at all times but particularly:

  • before lessons;
  • at break times;
  • during lessons; and
  • in the student common areas.

4.3  Meetings:  Bullying is regularly discussed between:

  • members of the Senior Management Team;
  • Heads of Year and year groups;
  • tutors and students in their tutor group; and
  • College staff and year group staff

The result of these meetings is to feed back information about friendship patterns, particular incidents, any student who seems to be isolated, any growing ‘power base’ and any known conflict between a member of staff and a student, or between students.

4.4  Education:  Measures are taken throughout each year to educate students about bullying and this policy.  These measures include:

4.4.1  PSHEE: The PSHEE curriculum includes a five lesson course on bullying which covers:

  • Who is the ‘bully’?  Who is the ‘victim’?
  • Why are some people ‘bullies’ and others ‘victims’?
  • What should a student do if s/he is bullied?
  • What constitutes bullying?  Where are the boundaries?
  • What should be done if bullying is confirmed?

Videos are shown to stimulate discussion.

4.4.2  Anti-Bullying posters are placed around the College.

4.5  Staff training:  Appropriate training in all aspects of care is arranged to ensure that Heads of Year and other staff have the necessary professional skills, which include awareness of the risk and indications of child abuse and bullying, and know how to deal with cases.  Students have access to a fully trained counsellor, if required.

Staff are trained to ensure that:

  • there is an adequate presence of staff;
  • staff are actively involved with students in all areas of the year group;
  • there is no crowding in the student common areas; and
  • good behaviour and discipline is maintained.

4.6  Students’ responsibilities:  We emphasise with senior students the role which is expected of them in setting a good example and being helpful to younger students and each other.

4.7  Record keeping and monitoring:  Heads of Year and staff maintain records on the welfare and development of individual students.  In addition, every complaint or report of bullying must be entered in the Student Database.  Heads of Year keep the Student Database up-to-date. The Director of Studies monitors all Student Databases and Tutor Files at the end of each term in order to identify any patterns, both in relation to individual students and across the College as a whole.  There will be a full review of the policy every two years, see paragraph 6 below.

4.8  Why incidents might not be reported

4.8.1  Victim:  There are many reasons why a student who has suffered bullying may be reluctant to report it.  The victim may become demoralised and may say, for example:

  • it is telling tales.  They won’t believe me because the person I am complaining about is popular and I am not, and I will become even more unpopular;
  • the things they are saying and doing are too embarrassing to discuss with an adult;
  • it is all my fault anyway for being overweight/too studious etc;
  • there are too many of them; there is nothing the staff can do;
  • it will get back to my parents and they will think less of me;
  • I will just try and toughen up and grow a thicker skin; or
  • I will lie low and not audition for a part in the College play etc.

4.8.2  Witnesses:  There are also reasons why a student who has witnessed or learned of bullying behaviour may not want to make a report.  The student may say:

  • it is ‘grassing’ and I will become unpopular;
  • it is not my concern anyway; or
  • I don’t like the victim and I would find it embarrassing to be associated with him/her.

4.9  Culture:  Any of these responses would be contrary to our culture at the College. When we drive and implement this policy we encourage every student to understand that:

  • every complaint of bullying will be taken seriously;
  • members of staff will deal with a complaint correctly and effectively in accordance with their experience and the training they have received;
  • there is a solution to nearly every problem of bullying;
  • a student who complains will receive support and advice and in many cases the problem can be dealt with on a no-names basis; and
  • the primary aim will be for the bullying to cease, not the punishment of the bully unless this is necessary.

5. Procedures

5.1  Guidelines:  The following procedures are a guideline except where expressed in the terms ‘should’ or ‘must’.  The best guide is the experience and training of the staff.

5.2  Reporting  bullying complaints

5.2.1  Students: A student who is being bullied, or who is worried about another student being bullied, should make a complaint without delay and can do so in several ways.  The student may:

  • tell their parents, their Head of Year or a Personal Tutor, or member of the College administration staff;
  • contact the College Counsellor for advice;
  • contact ChildLine (0800 1111); or
  • contact the designated Child Protection Officer of the Local Social Services

5.2.2  Parents: Parents who are concerned that their child is being bullied should inform their child’s personal tutor or Head of Year without delay.

5.2.3  Staff: This policy focuses mainly on the bullying of students by students although it is recognised that a staff member could be a victim and on occasion may be perceived to be guilty of bullying. All concerns about staff behaviour should be handled in accordance with our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy which deals with allegations against staff members. Parents or students may deal with any complaint against teachers or other staff through our Complaints Policy. 

5.3  Initial complaint:  This should be referred to the DSL.

5.4  Assessment:  The DSL or Deputy DSL will see the victim and (unless the case is very serious) any witnesses without delay, and form an initial view of the allegation.  The assessment will consider:

  • the nature of the incident(s) – physical, verbal, exclusionary etc
  • if it is a ‘one-off’ incident involving an individual or a group
  • if it is part of a pattern of behaviour by an individual or a group
  • whether physical injury been caused;  Who should be informed: Director of Studies,  parents, DSL, Social Services or the Police, for example
  • if the alleged bully can be seen on a no-names basis
  • what is the likely outcome if the complaint proves to be correct

At this stage, the possible outcomes for an incident which is not too serious include:

  • there has been a misunderstanding which can be explained sympathetically to the alleged victim with advice to the alleged bully; or
  • the complaint is justified in whole or in part, and further action will be required (see 5.6).

5.5  Serious incident:   If the DSL believes the incident to be serious or the incident has occurred after warnings have been given to the ‘bully’ the DSL must inform the Director of Studies who will then deal with this matter in accordance with our Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy. 

5.6  Range of action:  the range of responses will include one or more of the following:

  • advice and support for the victim and, where appropriate, establishing a course of action to help the victim;
  • advice and support to the bully in trying to change his/her behaviour.  This may include clear instructions and a warning or final warning;
  • a supervised meeting between the bully and the victim to discuss their differences and the ways in which they may be able to avoid future conflict;
  • a disciplinary sanction against the bully in accordance with the Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy, such as detention or withdrawal of privileges. In a very serious case or a case of persistent bullying, a student may, after a fair hearing, be required to leave the College permanently in accordance with the College’s Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy;
  • action to break up a ‘power base’;
  • moving either the bully or victim to another class (if possible and subject to availability) after consultation with the student, his/her parents and the relevant staff;
  • involving Social Services or the Police;
  • notifying the parents of one or both students about the case and the action which has been taken;
  • such other action as may appear to the Principal to be appropriate;
  • recording the incident and proceedings and noting the outcome in the safeguarding database.

5.7  Monitoring:  The position should be monitored for as long as necessary thereafter. Action may include:

  • sharing information with some or all colleagues and with students so that they may be alert to the need to monitor certain students closely;
  • ongoing counselling and support;
  • vigilance;
  • mentioning the incident at meetings of staff;
  • reviewing vulnerable individuals and areas of the College;
  • liaison between Heads of Year/Personal Tutors, the outcome being recorded in the Student Databases.

5.8  Formal complaint: If the victim or his/her parents are not satisfied with the action taken, they should be advised to make a formal complaint, according to the complaints procedure outlined in the College’s Complaints Policy.

6. Review

6.1  This Policy will be reviewed every two years by the Director of Studies to assess its effectiveness, and will be updated as necessary.  In undertaking the review the Director of Studies will take into account the results of the monitoring as set out at section 4.7 above, as well as any changes in legislation and/or statutory guidance and other relevant information gathered (such as through a bullying survey).


Authorised by The Principal
Date September 2021
Effective date of the policy September 2021
Circulation Teaching staff / all staff / parents / Students on request
Review date September 2022