It is important for schools to work with parents to help them to understand the stance of the school as regards bullying and to engage promptly with them when an issue of bullying comes to light, whether their child is the pupil being bullied or the one doing the bullying. Parents should be made aware of how to work with the school on bullying and how they can seek help if a problem is not resolved.
Parents of pupils who experience bullying will have a range of emotional needs to be addressed, but can also play a key role in supporting their child, developing coping strategies for them and building assertiveness skills in partnership with the school.
Parents of those causing bullying will also have a range of emotional needs, and may need time and support in coming to a balanced view of what is happening and appreciating their role in helping their child to learn about the consequences of their actions.
The developing body of experience around parent support shows the need for a spectrum of approaches, from professionals engaging in respectful listening, to schools challenging the attitudes of parents towards bullying issues.
Schools are legally required to have a complaints procedure and to make parents aware of this procedure.
Parents reporting bullying
Good practice includes:
- Recognising that the parent may be angry and upset.
- Keeping an open mind – bullying can be difficult to detect, so a lack of staff awareness does not mean no bullying occurs.
- Remaining calm and understanding.
- Making clear that the school does care and that something will be done.
- Explaining the school policy, making sure procedures are followed when a case is referred to them, senior teachers should also:
- Asking for details and recording the information.
- Making a further appointment to explain actions and find out if it has stopped.
- Following up with staff to ensure that appropriate action has been taken and that the school policy has been implemented.
Many of the same points apply when the school has to tell parents that their child is involved in bullying. Parents are more likely to accept a calm, caring approach, following the agreed guidelines of an anti-bullying policy they are familiar with. This helps to defuse anger and resentment. Specific requirements depend on whether the child in question is the child being bullied, or the perpetrator.
Parents are usually very protective of their children so if their child comes home complaining of being bullied, it’s not surprising that they’re concerned.
They may be very upset and storm into school demanding to know what you are going to do about the problem. Parents are sometimes unclear themselves about what’s been going on, particularly in the case of a younger child, so you may want to ask questions like:
- How long has the bullying been going on?
- What has been happening?
- Who was involved?
- Where did it happen?
- Were other pupils around at the time?
- Did the child tell a teacher or any other adult?
- How is it affecting the child?
What a school needs to do:
- Guarantee the parent action. Refer them to the school policy and explain anything they are unsure about.
- Give the parent some advice on how they can support their child.
Agree a time when you will report back to them and what form this will take.