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Bullying and Ofsted

The Education Inspection Framework sets out how Ofsted will inspect state schools, further education and skills providers, non-association independent schools and registered early years settings in England. Preventing and responding appropriately to bullying is a key component of school inspections.

Children running

In early 2019, Ofsted conducted a consultation on its new Inspect Framework. ABA fed into this and Ofsted responded with the following statements: 

The Anti-Bullying Alliance, facilitated by the NCB, suggested that some of the grade descriptors in the draft handbooks about the absence of bullying could simply encourage providers to hide or fail to report it. …

…It was not our intention that some of the grade descriptors included in the draft handbooks about the absence of bullying may simply encourage providers to hide or fail to report it. We have reviewed the relevant criteria carefully and now believe that the concern raised about this may be justified. We have therefore amended the criteria relating to bullying. The updated criteria place the emphasis on whether or not providers tolerate bullying, harassment, violence, derogatory language and discriminatory behaviour and, crucially, how swiftly and effectively they take action if these issues occur.

As a result they have changed the framework and handbooks to reflect this. It is important that schools can evidence their anti-bullying policies and interventions. Along with the new Framework, Ofsted also published its individual handbooks for:

  • maintained schools and academies

  • further education and skills

  • non-association independent schools

  • registered early years settings

ABA Advisory Group member Mark Holliday from Wandsworth Borough Council compiled a breakdown of all the elements of the Inspection Handbook for maintained schools and academies that reference bullying so schools are able to prepare for these elements:

  • Page 16 – Information schools must provide: Records and analysis of bullying, discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour, either directly or indirectly, including racist, sexist, disability and homophobic/biphobic/transphobic bullying, use of derogatory language and racist incidents.

  • Page 23 – Pupil and staff questionnaires: Inspectors have a duty to pass on disclosures that raise child protection or safeguarding issues and/or when there are concerns about serious misconduct, bullying of staff or criminal activity.

  • Page 28 – Talking to and observing pupils: During informal conversations with pupils, inspectors must ask them about their experiences of teaching, learning and behaviour in the school, including the prevention of bullying and how the school deals with any form of harassment and violence, discrimination and prejudiced behaviour, if they happen.

  • Page 53 – Behaviour and attitudes: An environment in which pupils feel safe, and in which bullying, discrimination and peer-on-peer abuse – online or offline– are not accepted and are dealt with quickly, consistently and effectively whenever they occur.

  • Page 54 – Sources of evidence specific to behaviour and attitudes: The pupil and staff surveys used in inspection contain questions about safeguarding, behaviour and discipline, bullying, how respondents feel about the school and how well supported and respected they feel they are in the school.

  • Page 56 – Grade descriptors for behaviour and attitudes:

    • ‘Outstanding’ - Pupils behave with consistently high levels of respect for others. They play a highly positive role in creating a school environment in which commonalities are identified and celebrated, difference is valued and nurtured, and bullying, harassment and violence are never tolerated.

    • ‘Good’ - Leaders, staff and pupils create a positive environment in which bullying is not tolerated. If bullying, aggression, discrimination and derogatory language occur, they are dealt with quickly and effectively and are not allowed to spread.

    • Inadequate’ - Incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour, both direct and indirect, are frequent. Pupils have little confidence in the school’s ability to tackle harassment, bullying, violence and/or discriminatory behaviour successfully

  • Page 72 – Ineffective safeguarding: Incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour are common.

  • Page 75 – Leadership and management grade descriptors: Leaders protect staff from bullying and harassment.

Education Inspection Framework

Ofsted School Inspection Handbook 2019

02 Aug 2019