How to protect school staff from bullying

By Lauren Seager-Smith

Many schools have increased their focus on bullying prevention and response amongst pupils over the years, but how many include staff within the anti-bullying strategy?

Staff can experience bullying in a number of ways, as targets, as bystanders to bullying behaviour and even as perpetrators. They can experience it with other colleagues, pupils and from parents. Bullying behaviour has particular traits: it is intended to hurt, it is repeated, and it’s hard for the person on the receiving end to defend themselves. It includes a broad spectrum of behaviour and can be verbal, emotional and physical, face to face and online. We also find that it is often discriminatory and targeted at someone’s gender, sexuality, race or religion or disability. The good news is that strategies that work with children can also be applied to staff.

These include:

  • Having a shared definition of bullying that is understood by the whole school community, being clear that bullying behaviour can be experienced by anyone.
  • Zero tolerance for the use of discriminatory language or comments. It’s important that schools communicate the types of language or comments this includes. For example, children may need support to understand language that is sexist or sexual, homophobic, racist or disablist. Be very clear that you will not accept it from children, staff or parents and that it will always be challenged.
  • Giving particular support to newly qualified teachers and new members of staff, providing opportunities to confidentially share any challenges they are facing (e.g. it is not uncommon for teachers to experience sexual comments and this can be hard to manage).
  • Regularly surveying pupils, parents and staff about experiences of bullying and further action the school can take so that all members of the community feel safe.
  • Having a number of reporting routes for staff, pupils and parents. For example, staff may not always feel comfortable reporting to a senior member of staff in the first instance. Is there a member of the pastoral team who they can confide in?
  • Making sure your policies are kept up to date and that staff policies reflect pupil policies (and vice versa).
  • Always keeping a watchful eye on the happiness and wellbeing of all members of the school community, addressing any concerns as soon as they come up.
  • Providing support and counselling for staff who have experienced violence and harassment. Don’t underestimate the impact of bullying on health and wellbeing.
  • Taking proactive steps to keep staff safe online. This includes educating staff on safe use of social media platforms and gaming sites (e.g privacy settings and who not to follow or friend), managing your digital footprint (e.g. any images or information that pupils may be able to find online), and how the school will respond if there are comments or allegations made about staff online.
  • Offering training to staff on how to manage conflict and bullying behaviour.
  • Creating opportunities to celebrate diversity in your school community

This blog was written by request of EduCare. Kidscape has partnered with EduCare to co-write their Preventing Bullying online course, which provides essential facts to help you understand, recognise and tackle bullying behaviour in your organisation or setting.

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