Key stages: From the ages of 11 to 16 your grandchild will move through [...]
What to do when your grandchild is being bulliedCreated by Charlotte in Age: At School, Education
Discovering that your grandchild is a victim of bullying in school can be one of the worst feelings for a grandparent, rx yet too often we see a distinct lack of help for those who want to act on this.
Many can be left in the dark about the bullying complaints procedure, and when your own child comes to you with concerns about their child, it’s useful to know the correct route to take.
To this end, we at Match Solicitors have produced a help guide for grandparents attempting to tackle this issue and give a little more information on the process as a whole.
Q: Are there any tell-tale signs that my grandchild may be being bullied?
A: Signs may include: sudden aggression or bullying of siblings or other children, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, reluctance to go to sleep, changed eating habits, coming home with damaged or missing clothes or with physical marks. It is always worth noting if your grandchild is suddenly having difficulties with school-work or is reluctant to attend school or to go outside to play.
Q: I have a feeling that my grandchild may be being bullied, but they will not open up to me. Who should I contact in this regard?
A: This is a difficult issue, and it is highly recommended that, if possible, you speak with the child to ascertain the details of the problem. If this still proves impossible, speaking with your grandchild’s form teacher, headteacher or even the school’s designated anti-bullying personnel about your concerns would be the best route.
Q: My grandchild has just told me that they are being bullied at school. What are my first steps?
A: You should speak to your grandchild and try to ascertain more details about what has been happening, who is involved and where within the school the bullying has been taking place.
Explain to the child that bullying is unacceptable. Tell your grandchild that if the bullying persists, they should make clear to the bully that the behaviour will not be tolerated. Impress on your grandchild that if bullying takes place at school, it should be reported to an appropriate adult such as a teacher or the school nurse. They should feel able to discuss concerns/worries with you at home so reassure your grandchild and be supportive.
Q: I have spoken to my grandchild about the issues and feel we need to take things further, who do I speak to first?
A: If applicable, now would be the best time to involve your grandchild’s parent(s) and inform them of what you both can do next.
Make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your child’s form tutor, head of year or head teacher. Approach the matter in a calm and non-confrontational way. You should try and ascertain whether the school teacher has noticed any unusual behaviour and whether there have been any issues with your child and other pupils. Ask the school to keep an eye on your child and the bully and ask for suggestions on how to address the issue.
If appropriate, and depending on the situation, you may want to speak to the parents of the bully to make them aware of what has been happening. Explain the situation non-confrontationally and explain that it is unacceptable. Ask them to take appropriate action to prevent further bullying from taking place.
Q: We are not happy with the outcome of an internal complaints procedure. What should we do now?
A: The answer to this question depends on what type of school is involved.
If your grandchild attends a state funded school (a community, foundation, voluntary aided or voluntary controlled school – not an academy), you may wish to progress your complaint by approaching the local authority. At this stage, try and ascertain whether the local authority is aware of other cases of bullying at the same school. If there is a problem of bullying within the School and the School has failed to respond appropriately, this will make your case more serious.
If your grandchild is at an Academy, contact the Academy to ask how you can escalate your complaint.
If you remain dissatisfied, you could contact the Local Government Ombudsman. Since July 2012, the Ombudsman is unable to consider complaints about the internal workings of a school and can only consider complaints about the way a local authority has dealt with a complaint.
Q: My grandchild is being bullied on the school network, what can we do?
A: If bullying has occurred over the School’s internal computer network, the School has an obligation to address this.
Express your concerns to the head teacher at the School and record in writing the steps that will be taken. Schools will have a policy regarding use of computers and cyber-bullying will be a clear breach of this. Schools should conduct an investigation and take disciplinary action if they become aware of bullying.
Q: The school reached a conclusion that bullying had taken place, but no punishment was issued to the offending child and I am worried that they will bully again. What can we do?
A: You should write to the head teacher in the first instance and make your concerns known.
The School has an obligation to have measures in place to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying amongst pupils. If the School has found that bullying has taken place, but no sanction has resulted, you should request a written explanation providing reasons for this decision.
If the situation is not remedied to your satisfaction, consult the published complaints procedure and initiate it.
It may be appropriate to seek legal advice on next steps.
Q: Couldn’t taking my grandchild’s school to court lead to him/her being affected negatively by the school?
A: If, as a last resort, you have decided to pursue legal action against the School, the School should not treat your child adversely because you are pursuing legal action against it.
If you are pursuing a claim of discrimination against the School, if the School treats your child less favourably because you are pursuing this complaint, the School will have committed unlawful discrimination.
Speak to your legal advisors about this and seek further advice.
Q: My grandchild has been receiving abusive texts from a number they are not familiar with. What should I do?
A: Take a detailed note of the text messages, the times they were sent and the number they were sent from. Do not delete the messages.
Report the text messages to the mobile provider and ask for the number to be blocked. If appropriate, report the matter to the Police.
Please note that the above is provided as general information only. Each case will turn on its own facts and before a parent takes any of the above steps, they are well advised to seek legal advice and not to rely on the above as directive advice on dealing with a bullying situation.
Anita Chopra, Match Solicitors