Managing Bullying At School


Bullying or victimisation, according to Olweus (1993), occurs when a student is exposed repeatedly and over time to negative actions by one or more other students. Negative actions include intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict injury or discomfort upon another. Negative actions can be words (threatening, taunting, teasing or name calling), actions (hitting, pushing, kicking or restraining by physical contact) or non-verbal behaviour such as making faces, gestures, intentional exclusion or refusal to comply. Bullying behaviour is based on an imbalance in strength or power between individuals. The student exposed to the negative action has difficulty defending him or herself and may feel somewhat helpless against the "bullies".


Management of bullying at school can occur at three levels: the whole school level, classroom level and individual level.


School Level


Managing bullying at the school level requires the school to initiate systematic measures against bullying. The school must first establish an ethos which highlights that people are valued and support this with teaching and pastoral care processes. Such processes may include:


•           Setting clear behavioural expectations for students.

•           Encouraging positive relationships between teachers and students and between students themselves.

•           Teaching effective problem solving and conflict resolution strategies to students.

•           Teachers modeling behaviours that respect individuals and avoiding use of sarcasm, labeling, name­calling and the use of power or threat.


Other strategies aimed specifically at preventing and correcting bullying behaviour, may include:


•           Surveying students to get an accurate picture of the extent of bullying in the school, and of students ideas, attitudes and feelings toward bullying, which will help direct a plan of action.

•           Developing a school ethos based on the attitude "we don't accept bullying/bullying is not tolerated at this school", and sending this message clearly to all members of the school community.

•           Holding a school conference day or anti-bullying day, to raise awareness, get a collective commitment, and determine an overall long-term plan of action for the school.

•           Providing good supervision of students' activities during break times and intervening quickly and decisively in bullying situations. Less bullying occurs at schools that have a relatively high "teacher density" during recess and lunch time (Olweus, 1993).

•           Making special arrangements of time and space for different aged students during break times (e.g.. assigning different play areas etc). A great deal of bullying is carried out by older students against younger students (Olweus, 1993).

•           Providing something for students to do during break times.

Providing structure and organisation and a well equipped and attractive outdoor environment that invites positive activities. Teachers should be active in the playground and be involved in games and activities with students.

•           Encouraging open communication and "telling" without fear of recrimination.

•           Informing parents of the school's stance against bullying and anti-bullying initiatives, and encouraging co-operation between school and home. This may include, for example, providing information to parents on how to recognise when their child is being bullied, who to inform and how they can help.


Class Level


At the classroom level, the teacher can work effectively with the class group to promote group cohesion and teach students preventative skills for resisting involvement in bullying behaviour, such as conflict resolution skills.


•           Create a specific set of class rules targeting bullying behaviour.

(e.g..   We will not bully other students.

We will try to help students who are bullied.

We will make an effort to include students who become left out.)

•           Utilise class discussion, games, activities, role - playing.            Such activities can be useful, for example, to raise student awareness about the impact of bullying, to help students learn strategies for dealing with bullying, or to illustrate how "neutral" students can counteract social exclusion, avoid "passive participation" and stop ongoing bullying.

•           Praise and positively reinforce appropriate behaviour. Focus on anti-bullying behaviour, such as

standing up.for fellow students, "telling" and resisting involvement in fights.      , -

•           Provide negative consequences or sanctions for undesirable, rule breaking behaviour.

•           Hold class meetings to collaboratively problem solve particular issues affecting the group.

•           Utilise co-operative learning strategies. Promote co-operation rather than competition between students to encourage them to become more accepting of and more positive toward each other.


Individual Level


At the individual level, the focus is on changing the behaviour or situation of individual students identified as bullies or victims. Strategies may include:


•           Discussion with the "bully" regarding unacceptable behaviour and potential sanctions for further bullying, or strategies for problem solving, conflict resolution and anger management.

•           Discussion with the "victim" regarding strategies to decrease bullying, including for example, appropriate assertiveness.

•           Mediation between students.

•           Strategies such as the "No Blame Approach" to bullying, utilising group problem solving.

•           Inform and work collaboratively with parents of both victims and bullies.




Olweus, D.     (1993).            Bullying at school - What we know and what we can do. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.


Further information regarding the management of bullying at school, or professional development for staff regarding the "No Blame Approach " to bullying is available from the Peel School Psychology Service.