Creating a fairer Britain
The Equality and Human Rights Commission agrees with and welcomes the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) proposals to introduce new duties to record and report incidents of bullying in schools in order to keep school pupils and staff safe from bullying and harassment.
It is essential that the duties cover bullying targeted at people across all equality groups. This would be in line with the extended duties on schools in the Equality Act 2010. We also advocate that recording requirements should be extended to include all bullying incidents, not just those deemed serious and persistent.
These duties should be placed on Governing Bodies as they are responsible for the delivery of the equality duties placed on schools; for school performance in relation to Ofsted inspections and this would support joined-up delivery of anti-bullying work in schools.
Recording incidents alone is insufficient to drive policy and culture change in schools and across local authorities. The duty should also require schools to provide anonymised data to local authorities. This will help evaluate the effectiveness of bullying policies, both in schools and in the wider community. It will also provide valuable evidence for local authorities in relation to the extended duty, to promote equality, eliminate harassment and foster good relations across all equality groups, within the Equality Act 2010.
Anonymised data should also be made available to central Government. This will provide an important evidence base for assessing the effectiveness of policy guidance, identifying potential sources of good practice and targeting interventions towards the areas of greatest need.
Safeguards need to be in place to ensure confidentiality for individuals. But it will also be important to strike a balance between confidentiality requirements and duties to take appropriate action to respond to the bullying, especially if this involves organisations outside of the school.
Greater clarity is needed about how schools data will be used. In particular, it would be helpful to shift the emphasis from a focus on scrutiny of numbers as a measure of the school’s performance and towards context and value-added considerations, linked to more effective prevention and response underpinning the reporting returns.
The Commission believes that in addition to a statutory recording and reporting requirements, there should be a statutory requirement for Governing Bodies, teachers and all school staff to undergo training in bullying prevention and response and in all aspects of delivery of these new arrangements. Rather than being a burden, this could be promoted as an entitlement by DCSF, linked to the CPD entitlement as part of the Licence to Teach proposals.