Bullying Type Behaviour - Information for Parents

Preventing and responding to bullying type behaviours in schools.

Bullying type behaviour exists in all communities including schools. To respond to this, The Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (NI) 2016 commenced on 1st September 2021.

Information and Advice

What is bullying type behaviour?

Bullying type behaviour exists in all communities including schools. To respond to this, The Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (NI) 2016 commenced on 1st September 2021. It provides schools with one legal definition to assess all reported alleged incidents of bullying type behaviour in schools and associated guidance.

The legal definition of bullying that applies to all schools in NI:

Bullying includes (but is not limited to) the repeated use of:

(a) Any verbal, written or electronic communication,

(b) Any other act, or

(c) Any combination of those - by a pupil or a group of pupils against another pupil or group of pupils, with the intention of causing physical or emotional harm to that pupil or group of pupils.

What are a school’s responsibilities when addressing bullying type behaviour?

It is the statutory duty of schools to record all incidents, and alleged incidents, of bullying type behaviour digitally. Schools are required to support all pupils to address bullying type behaviour in a relational and solution focused manner.

For this reason:

We refer to the pupil experiencing bullying type behaviour rather than ‘victim’.

We refer to the pupil displaying bullying type behaviour instead of ‘bully’ or ‘perpetrator’.

We refer to unkind behaviours as socially unacceptable or bullying type behaviour.

Schools aim to create and maintain a safe, nurturing, learning environment. Measures are put in place to protect and support those children and young people experiencing and/or displaying bullying type behaviour to tackle the problem effectively.

All members of the school community have a responsibility to prevent and address bullying type behaviour, whether in person and/or online, as outlined in the school’s Addressing Bullying Behaviour Policy. School staff work with pupils, parents, and carers to agree relational, solution focused plans to support both those experiencing and displaying the behaviour. The legislation enables schools to address bullying type behaviours occurring outside school, both on the journey to and from school and online, where there is impact on the child’s wellbeing and/or learning.

Why and how do some students engage in bullying type behaviour?

Bullying type behaviour in school usually involves a breakdown in peer relationships.

Motivation can be related to vulnerable, or minority groups based on e.g. race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, age, appearance, child looked after status (CLA), community background, cultural, family, circumstances and political affiliation. (This is not an exhaustive list.)

Bullying type behaviour can present as relational, verbal, or physical and can take place online or offline.

What are potential signs that a student could be experiencing bullying type behaviour?

There are many signs that your child could be experiencing bullying type behaviour that could include:

  • Refusal to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low mood/change in mood
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Repeated physical injuries
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Declining academic performance

(Please note this is not an exhaustive list, and these symptoms may be reflective of other factors.)

What should I do if my child shares that they may be experiencing bullying type behaviour?

  • Stay calm, listen, and reassure your child.
  • Report concerns to school staff directly as soon as possible.
  • Outline details of your concern and give staff time to gather information.
  • Arrange an appointment with pastoral staff to agree a support plan that addresses the behaviour causing your child concern.
  • As coordinated by school staff, regularly review, and update the plan in consultation with all those involved.

What is a school’s role in supporting pupils who are experiencing and/or displaying bullying type behaviour?

Schools should create and maintain a safe, inclusive, and nurturing learning environment for all. Measures are put in place to protect and support those children and young people experiencing bullying type behaviour. To tackle the problem effectively it is also essential that schools proactively support those displaying bullying type behaviour. School staff work with pupils, parents, and carers to agree relational, solution focused plans that support both those experiencing and/or displaying the behaviour.

Schools have a responsibility to implement preventative measures aimed at reducing and stopping bullying type behaviour whether in occurs in-person and/or online.

The legislation enables schools to respond to bullying type behaviours occurring on the journey to and from school and online, where there is impact on the child’s wellbeing and learning.

How does a school assess if the concern raised is bullying type behaviour?

When a concern of bullying type behaviour is shared, staff will clarify facts, perceptions, and the individual needs of all those involved. Staff will assess the reported incident using the T.R.I.P.

criteria and select interventions aimed at addressing the behaviour and repairing relationships. This process is not intended to label children but to identify the behaviours and support appropriate follow-up.

It is a statutory duty for schools to relationally support all pupils to address bullying type behaviour in a solution orientated manner. School may use a Bullying Concern Assessment Form (BCAF) to digitally record the concern and determine whether it meets the criterial for bullying type behaviour. If the criteria are met, strategies are implemented, evaluated, and kept under review to ensure the agreed plan is effective in supporting the pupils.

What are the Characteristics of Bullying Type Behaviour?

Socially unacceptable behaviour becomes bullying type behaviour when, based on the information gathered, all four parts of TRIP are confirmed. TRIP stands for TARGETED, REPEATED, INTENDED, PSYCHOLOGICAL and/or PHYSICAL harm.

  • When the behaviour is Targeted at a specific pupil or group of pupils.
  • When the behaviour is Repeated over a period of time.
  • When the behaviour is deliberately Intended to cause harm.
  • When the behaviour causes, Psychological, Emotional, or Physical harm.

A significant One-of Incident can be considered bullying type behaviour in certain circumstances and if included in the school’s Addressing Bullying Behaviour policy.  For example, where a digital communication has been repeatedly and intentionally shared to cause harm.

What if I have a concern about how a school has responded to a concern?

The Act places responsibility on school Board of Governors to oversee the implementation of the Act in schools. If you have any concerns regarding how your bullying type behaviour concern is being supported in school, these are  addressed through your school’s complaints procedure.

All schools are required to have in place a Complaints Policy which sets out how matters of parental concern or complaints are dealt with by the school. Usually, the stages within such a Policy begin with the class Teacher, moving through the pastoral structure to the Principal, and finally to the Board of Governors, if an issue remains unresolved. 

Most schools have websites and social media platforms, and some make their Complaints Policy available on their site.  If the school’s Policy is not available online, it can be obtained by contacting the school and requesting a copy. The school’s Complaints Policy should detail clearly the formal process (including timescales) for lodging a complaint with the school. 

Where a parent remains dissatisfied after completing all the stages of a school’s Complaints Policy, they can complain directly to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO). 

Information about the NIPSO

The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) is the final stage for complaints about public services in NI.  This includes complaints about schools and the EA.  The NIPSO is an independent organisation that investigates complaints. 

Contact details below:

Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
Progressive House
33 Wellington Place
Belfast

BT1 6HN

Opening Hours: 9.00am - 5.00pm, Monday to Friday (excluding Public Holidays)

  • Telephone:  02890 233821
  • Text Phone: 02890 897789
  • Freephone:  0800 34 34 24
  • Email:           [email protected]
  • Freepost:      Freepost NIPSO

NIPSO Online Contact 

NIPSO website         

What if I have concerns with how EA staff have supported my concern?

At all times we aim to treat you with respect and courtesy, but there may be times when you are unhappy with the standard of our service.  For example, if you feel that we have treated you unfairly, have failed to explain things clearly or follow office procedures, or that we have caused unreasonable delay with a process.

Further information can be found regarding the EA’s Complaints Handling Procedure within our Comments and Complaints section.

Last updated: 22/11/2023