Bullying and the law

This is a quick guide to bullying and the law, as it relates to schools in England and Wales.

Section 89 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006

Maintained schools must have measures to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. These measures should be part of the school’s behaviour policy which must be communicated to all pupils, school staff and parents.

The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014

The proprietor of an Academy or other independent school ensures that bullying at the school is prevented in so far as reasonably practicable, by the drawing up and implementation of an effective anti-bullying strategy.

The Equality Act 2010

A key provision in The Equality Act 2010 is the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED), which covers age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The Duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it
  • Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

Safeguarding children and young people

When there is ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm’ a bullying incident should be addressed as a child protection concern under the Children Act 1989.

Criminal law

Bullying in itself is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, but some types of harassing or threatening behaviour – or communications – could be a criminal offence, for example under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Communications Act 2003, and the Public Order Act 1986 (e.g. under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, any person who sends an electronic communication which conveys a message which is indecent or grossly offensive, a threat, or information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender, is guilty of an offence if their purpose in sending it was to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient).

Bullying outside school premises

Sections 90 and 91 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 say that a school’s disciplinary powers can be used to address pupils’ conduct when they are not on school premises and are not under the lawful control or charge of a member of school staff, but only if it would be reasonable for the school to regulate pupils’ behaviour in those circumstances.

School Inspection


Ofsted Inspection Framework

Inspectors will assess the extent to which the provider complies with the relevant legal duties as set out in the Equality Act 2010, including, where relevant, the Public Sector Equality Duty and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Behaviour and attitudes

Inspectors will make a judgement on behaviour and attitudes by evaluating the extent to which:

  • Relationships among learners and staff reflect a positive and respectful culture. Leaders, teachers and learners create an environment where bullying, peer-on-peer abuse or discrimination are not tolerated. If they do occur, staff deal with issues quickly and effectively, and do not allow them to spread.


Estyn Common inspection framework (applies to all schools including independent schools).


Inspectors should consider the extent to which pupils feel safe and secure, and free from physical and verbal abuse.

Key government documents



Subscribe to updates for parents, carers and education professionals, direct to your inbox.

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. By using this site you agree to these cookies being set. See our cookies policy for more information or to change your cookie preferences at any time.

OK, hide this message
Back to the Top