​First responses

Bullying should be taken seriously. Children and young people need to know that they are being heard and that their feelings matter, and that their issue will be investigated respectfully.

Your first response to someone who tells you they are involved in bullying can make a difference to the outcome.

Young people often tell their friends or parents first and only go to teachers for help as a last resort.

This can mean that that when a student does tell a teacher about bullying it may already be serious and part of a bigger story continuing over some time.

When bullying is reported, school staff need to follow the school's policy and procedures.

What to say

Talking to students about bullyingWatch Dr Michael Carr-Gregg in Talking to students vid​eo series about how to respond if students tell you about bullying.

If a student reports bullying to you:

  • reassure them that you will try to help them
  • avoid minimising the issue, or saying dismissive things that imply the issue is not important
  • find a suitable place to talk, or make a time to discuss the problem privately
  • ensure that your voice is calm and your body language is open as you listen
  • listen without interrupting, using only encouraging questions or sounds to show you are listening
  • only after you have heard their whole story​ should you ask specific questions if you need more details
  • if they haven't already told you, ask the student w​hen, how and where the bullying happens, including:
    • what words have been said or written
    • has anyone been physically hurt and how
    • who is usually around
    • who else have they told about this
    • if it is happening online ask if there is any evidence of what has happened
  • ask questions to help you distinguish between single incidents of conflict and an ongoing pattern of bullying
  • write down the information, or ask an older student to write down the details themselves and give it to you
  • reassure the student it's never okay to be bullied
  • reassure the student it is not their fault that the other person is behaving in such a way
  • praise the student for speaking out, acknowledging that talking about it takes lots of courage
  • ask the student what they want you to do and whether they want you to do anything at this stage
  • if they want your assistance to stop the bullying, tell them you will now start your school's procedures to investigate and respond to their report
  • reassure them that the school takes this seriously and that you will get back to them as soon you can
  • ask the student if they feel safe in the short term in case you need to take preventative safety measures.

You can also download What to do if you are being bullied (PDF, 180KB) and talk through the key messages with students. (Accessible version, RTF, 55KB). ​