Wow.  This is a tall order.  Offering advice on how to solve the problem of bullying, which is a solution that has largely evaded most schools through time.  Much of the choice about how to deal with bullying depends on the severity of the incident.  Should you deal with it? Should someone more senior, such as a pastoral leader, deal with it?  Will you betray the trust of the person being bullied if you refer it on? Such is the complexity of this issue in schools.

If the bullying incident is minor and short term, it may be that a simple chat with the person showing bullying behaviour would do.  It might be just a matter of describing the behaviour you have heard about or witnessed and leaving the student to decide what should happen as a result.  Good students, making a simple error, often suggest a punishment much more severe than you would give.  This allows them to feel that they have been given a hearing when you suggest a consequence that is more lenient.

The approach for moderate and sustained bullying, which has been most popular in recent times,is restorative justice.  This, to be honest, has always been awkward for me to pull off as a teacher.  Understanding that the bully was likely to be muddled and upset in some way too was a difficult one for me – but it is true that punishing the bully only serves to make the bullied potentially more of a victim.  RJ is a complex strategy and one that deserves an article of its own.  It is a powerful tool though – and one that many schools swear by.

Severe and sustained bullying, of the kind that could lead to school refusing or worse, should always be dealt with by a pastoral leader.  Even in a situation where you are approached and a disclosure is given, if the bullying represents a infraction of rules that would result in an exclusion from school, then a senior teacher should be involved.  Even if the bullying is not violent but the impact devastating, it is always best to refer up for support.  The emotional impact on the student bullied may require a referral to mental health services and as a classroom teacher this is outside your job role..

In truth, each situation will be different, each child in need of different care.  All you can do is trust that whatever you do will make the situation a little better.  Never, in the world of doing nothing, has this solved bullying.

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