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November 2017 - Please note that this guidance document has now been refreshed.  Please refer to the updated Respect for All: The National Approach to Anti-bullying for Children and Young People

A National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland's Children and Young People


Policy development and implementation

Organisations will have different ways of putting the principles of anti-bullying into practice to reflect local environments and culture.

However, all organisations that work with children and young people should develop and implement an anti-bullying policy. The policy should be reviewed on a regular basis; provide a framework for all the strategies, procedures and practices related to anti-bullying work through partnerships, consultation; and include an equality and diversity impact assessment. The most robust and successful policies are developed in consultation with all stakeholders. Policies should include:

  • a statement which lays out the organisational stance on bullying behaviour
  • a definition of bullying, developed through consultation creating a shared understanding between all parties involved
  • expectations or codes of behaviour and responsibilities for staff and children and young people
  • preventative and reactive strategies showing what an organisation commits itself to, what strategies it will employ when faced with bullying incidents or allegations and to prevent bullying from happening
  • clarity on how and how often the organisation will communicate its anti-bullying policy and to whom; and how parents and carers will be informed of incidents
  • the recording and monitoring strategies that will be used for management purposes
  • how and how often the policy will be evaluated to understand how successful and effective the policy is

Anti-bullying policies may be located within wider organisational policies such as child protection, health and safety or relationship and behaviour policies.

Policy statement

It is important to ensure that the ethos of anti-bullying is embedded in day to day practices and the message that bullying is never acceptable is always prevalent and continuously reinforced.


Definitions developed through consultation and shared understanding will allow organisations to discuss what bullying looks and feels like, what forms it can take, including issues of difference and prejudice, and setting thresholds and expectations. Definitions should not however restrict what action is taken in order to respond effectively, and on the individual needs of each case or situation. The impact an incident has had on a child or young person is more important than whether it is classified as bullying.

Expectations and communication

The anti-bullying policy and procedures should be communicated and shared so that children and young people, their parents and carers, know who they can talk to and what they can expect if bullying occurs. Staff, parents and carers, and children and young people, should be aware of their responsibilities and of the expectations of the organisation. Training and/or support should be provided to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in relation to the anti-bullying policy and procedures. Information leaflets on anti-bullying for children, young people, parents and carers are also available to help communicate ways of dealing with bullying. 9

Approaches to preventing and dealing with bullying

Adults should establish open, positive and supportive relationships where children and young people feel safe secure, listened to, and secure in their ability to discuss sensitive issues. It is essential that adults model behaviour which promotes health and wellbeing; and understand anti-discriminatory, anti-bullying, and child protection policies. Approaches that can help prevent and deal with bullying are:

  • education and awareness of rights
  • development of an inclusive and positive ethos and climate of respect, responsibility and positive relationships; and a culture where bullying and discrimination is unacceptable
  • pupil involvement and engagement
  • circle time, peer mediation, buddies, mentoring, playground pals and playground supervision
  • proactive information strategies and campaigns
  • mental, emotional and social health and wellbeing programmes and activities
  • implementation of whole organisation programmes in positive relationships and behaviour, social and emotional skills and personal development
  • restorative approaches
  • nurturing approaches and principles
  • personal support and additional support
  • supporting and enabling parents
  • acting on patterns of bullying incidents through monitoring 10

Recording and monitoring

Recording and monitoring bullying incidents are essential for a number of reasons. Accurately recording incidents of bullying allows organisations to ensure that appropriate response and follow up has been issued. It helps the organisation to monitor the effectiveness of its policy and practice and can also help identify a need for training. Monitoring bullying incidents can provide information on recurring patterns including:

  • involvement of particular children and young people; staff or other adults
  • where and when bullying takes place
  • aspects of prejudice or discrimination underlying bullying
  • action taken or resolution at an individual or organisational level
  • consideration of personal or additional support needs

Questionnaires can also be used to discover the nature and extent of bullying within an organisation, allowing adoption and adaptation of practice. The recording, monitoring and analysis of bullying is best carried out locally where it can be understood and acted upon by local organisations; as well as providing feedback on the effectiveness of anti-bullying policy and practice.

More information, training and support on policy development is provided by respectme 11and the Scottish Government's Positive Behaviour Team (further information at annex B).

Implementation - responsibility for all

In order to ensure a comprehensive approach to anti-bullying for Scotland's children and young people, all of us need to build and sustain contributions to the aims of this approach. There is a role for all to provide leadership on anti bullying; raise awareness; implement policies and practice to prevent or respond to bullying; and bring bullying behaviour to the attention of those responsible for children and young people, including staff, volunteers, parents and carers.