Anti-Bullying Policy

1. Statement

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 10.

The College maintains a zero-tolerance approach to any form of bullying, whether online and/or in person, including sexual harassment and violence, racist, sexist and homophobic (or any other trans-related phobias) behaviour and abuse. Students and staff are encouraged to report any concerns or issues, however small, to a trusted member of staff and/or the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) so that appropriate and timely action can be taken and relevant support offered. The DSL will always be informed of concerns raised.

This policy is available to students and parents on the College portals, to staff on induction and training, and is published on the College website.

2. Aims

Through the operation of this policy we aim:

  • to promote and drive a positive and supportive culture among all students and staff throughout the College;
  • to ensure students and staff are aware that any form or level of bullying will not be tolerated and that all concerns and allegations will be investigated;
  • to ensure students and staff know what constitutes bullying, the disciplinary measures in place to deal with it and how to report concerns and/or abuse;
  • to create an environment where students and staff feel confident to report concerns and/or abuse knowing they will be taken seriously, supported and that appropriate action will be taken.

3. Bullying behaviour is extremely serious, 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.

4. Related policies and legislation

5. Definition of bullying

Bullying is behaviour by an individual or group, either repeated over time or on a one-off basis, that hurts another individual or group either physically and/or psychologically. Bullying typically involves an imbalance of power where the victim is made to feel powerless, worthless, excluded or marginalised, and unable to defend themselves. Bullying may also include inciting others to take part in bullying behaviour.

Bullying is often connected to prejudices around belonging, identity and equality in the wider society, as well as perceived membership or associated with a certain group or identity. For example, prejudices may target disabilities and special educational needs, ethnicity, cultural and religious backgrounds, gender, home life, (for example in relation to issues of care, parental occupation, poverty and social class) and sexual identity (homosexual, bisexual, transsexual).

Bullying can take place anywhere on and off the College premises, as well as online (cyberbullying), and may take many forms:

  • physical – hitting, kicking, punching, pushing people around, spitting, initiation rituals; or taking, damaging or hiding possessions often with threat of violence and intimidation;
  • verbal – name-calling, taunting, teasing, insulting, negative criticism, spreading rumours, ridiculing, using language that is racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory, threats;
  • psychological – isolating or excluding from social groups and friends; malicious accusations and spreading rumours, extortion, deliberate unkindness;
  • sexual – harassment (unwanted sexual conduct including comments, touching, exposure to sexual imagery, coercion), sexual jokes and taunts, non-consenual sharing of nude and semi-nude imagery, upskirting and sexual violence; sexual bullying, and sexual violence, is dealt with extensively in the College’s Peer-on-Peer Abuse Policy;
  • cyberbullying – use of any digital media, such as mobile phones, instant messaging, email, chat rooms or social networking sites, to carry out bullying behaviour as described above; see below regarding cyberbullying as a criminal offence.

6. Bullying and criminal offences

6.1 Cyberbullying

The Malicious Communications Act 1988, section 1, criminalises cyberbullying where ‘electronic communications are indecent or grossly offensive, convey a threat or false information or demonstrate that there is an intention to cause distress or anxiety to the victim’. It also includes, (section 127) ‘electronic communications which are grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing, or false, used again for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another could also be deemed to be criminal behaviour.’

Cyberbullying that involves taking and distributing indecent images of young people under the age of 18 falls under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This includes non-consensual sharing of nude and semi-nude images and/or videos.

6.2 Physical and/or sexual violence, harassment and assult, theft and wilfull damage of property

Behaviour of this nature, and the threat of this behaviour, may constitute a criminal offence and/or civil wrong (tort) for which there can be legal punishment beyond the remit of the College. All allegations relating to such will be dealt with by the DSL or DDSL in accordance with Ashbourne’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures and in consultation with Children’s Social Care (CSC) and/or the police.

7. Recognising bullying

Anyone may become a victim of bullying. There are a whole range of factors, characteristics and social dynamics that may make someone vulnerable to bullying behaviour, often based on ‘so-called’ difference to the ‘norm’. These include age, physical appearance, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion and culture. Other factors may include being new to the College, shy, lacking in self-esteem and confidence. Someone may also be a target simply because of an irrational decision by a bully.

Signs that someone is being bullied may include:

  • frequently feeling unwell, missing lessons, leaving early and avoiding parts of the College
  • dramatic changes in friend groups or seeming isolated
  • suddenly becoming withdrawn, anxious, lacking in confidence
  • unusually reluctant to participate in class or engage in group work
  • becoming disengaged with their studies and noticeable change in their academic performance
  • uncharacteristic aggressive or disruptive behaviour
  • physical injuries such as unexplained cuts, bruises and rips in
  • clothing and equipment
  • belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged
  • asking to borrow money or stealing (to pay a bully)
  • problems with eating and sleeping
  • bullying others
  • Self-harm and suicide attempts

Staff at Ashbourne need to be alert to the signs of bullying and be aware that some students may be reluctant to report bullying for a variety of reasons.

7.1  Why bullying may go unreported

There are many reasons why a someone who has suffered bullying may be reluctant to report it, for example:

  • They fear they will not be believed because the alleged bully is popular; and that reporting will make them less popular;
  • They believe the things the bully is saying and doing are too embarrassing to discuss;
  • They blame themselves for being bullied;
  • They believe there is nothing anyone else can do;
  • They are concerned their parents will find out and think less of them;
  • They think they should try and toughen up and grow a thicker skin; or
  • They plan to avoid contact in order to not deal with the problem, thereby isolating themselves.

There are also reasons why someone who has witnessed or learned of bullying behaviour may not want to make a report. They may be concerned about reporting on others and becoming unpopular; feel it is not their concern; fear being associated with the alleged victim.

8. Anti-bullying culture

8.1  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, Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy and the Staff Code of Conduct. Any complaint of bullying, including cyberbullying, will always be taken seriously and no form of bullying will be tolerated.

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 issue.

The DSL may delegate handling of concerns to another member of staff who is in a position to offer the appropriate support, but will continue to oversee the whole process.

As with all safeguarding concerns, the DSL will be responsible for dealing with both the alleged victim(s) and the alleged perpetrator(s) and developing ongoing programmes of monitoring and support as well as recording, on the College’s secure internal safeguarding database, and reviewing all relevant notes, including interviews, witness statements and reports from professionals such as social workers or psychologists, as appropriate.

8.2  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 protected characteristic, particularly in relation to bullying. The College is committed to a culture which provides equal opportunities and is free from bullying.

8.3  Staff

Members of staff are expected to comply with the Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy. Ashbourne ensures 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 alleged victim(s); however they are advised wherever possible to involve the DSL in the interview process from the outset.

Staff are aware of the importance of safeguarding and are trained to relay all concerns regarding safeguarding, including bullying, to the DSL in person or through the College’s secure internal safeguarding database. They are also aware of their legal duty in extreme cases of bullying, where there is immediate risk of danger or harm to a student to alert the local Children’s Social Care (CSC) and/or the police; given the small size of the College, however, this will almost always be carried out by the DSL or DDSL. 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.

8.4  Students

Students are expected to comply with the College’s Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy, which outlines what constitutes positive behaviour and healthy relationships. Students are introduced to Ashbourne’s anti-bullying ethos, which promotes safeguarding and equal opportunities, when they receive their induction at registration. This is reinforced through ongoing 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.

9. Anti-bullying systems

9.1 Approach

The systems for detecting and dealing with bullying are designed to operate:

  • across year groups;
  • within year groups and in the classroom and other activities; and
  • includes all members of he Ashbourne community – staff and students alike.

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

9.2  Vigilance

Members of staff are vigilant at all times but particularly:

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

9.3  Meetings

Bullying is regularly discussed between:

  • members of the Senior Leadership Team;
  • Heads of Year and year groups;
  • teachers and students in their tutor group;
  • College staff and year group staff;
  • the DSL and Director of Studies during weekly safeguarding meetings;
  • staff, parents and guardians through communication and feedback webinars.

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.

9.4  Education

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

9.4.1  PSHEE

The PSHEE curriculum includes lessons on bullying.

9.4.2  Anti-Bullying posters

These are placed around the College.

9.5  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.

9.6  Record keeping and monitoring

Every report of bullying must be entered on the College’s secure internal safeguarding database, which is monitored and kept up to date by the DSL.

9.7  Culture

Bullying needs to be called out and dealt with swiftly so that all Ashbourne members feel confident and safe in their learning environment. Students should know 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.

10. Procedures

10.1  Reporting bullying

10.1.1  Students

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

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

All reports of bullying will be taken seriously and those affected will be offered appropriate and timely support.

10.1.2  Parents

Parents who are concerned that their child is being bullied should inform their child’s personal tutor or Head of Year without delay. Reports relating to staff will be handled in accordance with the College’s Complaints Policy and the Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy.

10.1.3  Staff concerns about students being bullied

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 and/or allegations made to staff regarding students must be reported to the DSL and will be handled in accordance with either the Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy or the Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy.

10.1.4 Concerns about staff

All concerns about staff behaviour should be reported to the Principal or DSL, or the LADO where relevant, and handled in accordance with our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures which deals with allegations against staff members. Where staff are concerned for themselves

If staff are being bullied they should report this to their line manager or the DSL, if the report concerns the line manager.

10.2  Assessment

The DSL or Deputy DSL will investigate concerns and/or allegations by meeting with see the alleged victim(s) and (unless the case involves very serious risk of harm, threat of harm or criminal offences) any witnesses without delay, to form an initial assessment. The assessment will consider:

  • the nature of the incident(s) – physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, cyberbullying;
  • 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 serious harm has been caused or risk of serious harm exists;
  • the likely outcomes and next steps based on the nature and level of the concerns and/or allegations: e.g. mediation, counselling and/or disciplinary action.

10.3  Serious harm, risk of harm and repeated misconduct

If the DSL and/or Director of Studies believes athe report incident to raises serious issues of harm, possible criminal behaviour and/or repeated misconduct it will become a disciplinary matter that will be dealt with in accordance with the College’s Student Behaviour and Exclusions Policy or Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy.

10.4 Criminal behaviour including violence and/or harmful sexual behaviour

Allegations that highlight violence and/or harmful sexual behaviour will automatically be considered as a safeguarding concern and will be dealt with in accordance with Ashbourne’s Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy and Procedures, and in consultation with external agencies.

10.5 Monitoring

As soon as a concern and/or allegation is raised about bullying the details will be entered on to the College’s internal safeguarding database, where it will be tracked and monitored by the DSL. This may involve sharing information with colleagues and students, setting up counselling and support and reviewing outcomes.

10.6 Formal complaint

If the alleged victim or their 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.

11. Review

This policy will be reviewed every year by the DSL to assess its effectiveness, and will be updated as necessary. In undertaking the review the DSL will take into account safeguarding reports and outcomes, as well as any changes in legislation and/or statutory guidance and other relevant information gathered.


Authorised by
The Principal

September 2021

Effective date of the policy
September 2021

Teaching staff / all staff / parents / Students on request

Review date
September 2022

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