Helping children to get along: teachers’ strategies for dealing with bullying in primary schools

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Bullying in schools continues to receive much attention. Research has shown that involvement in bullying can have effects on children’s mental health (Arseneault et al, 2010); hence it is a key government priority for schools to address. All schools in England are legally required to have an anti-bullying policy and systems and procedures in place for preventing and managing bullying. Teachers therefore have a pivotal, frontline role in dealing with bullying effectively. In a time of education budget cuts, teachers are under increasing pressure to deliver high quality schooling with more limited resources. It is therefore opportune to explore bullying from the perspective of teachers, in order to understand their experiences of managing bullying in schools. This paper reports on a qualitative study conducted with six female primary school teachers in England. Teachers were individually interviewed, using a semi-structured approach, about their perceptions of bullying and strategies to prevent and manage it in their school. Data was analysed thematically (Braun & Clarke, 2006) in order to identify patterns in teachers’ experiences. Findings showed that prevention and intervention work mainly centred on encouraging empathy development; and teaching children skills to help them nurture effective social relationships. Talking was a key strategy, with teachers using intervention approaches that involved facilitated discussions with individuals or groups; and good communication between members of school staff, and parents. The research suggests that although schools have clearly defined policies and procedures for handling specific bullying incidents, a lot of the preventative and intervention work in primary schools is aligned to activities focussed on developing children’s relationship skills and social and emotional understanding. In this vein, bullying is positioned as a particular relational difficulty sitting on a continuum of interpersonal relationships. This is supportive of recent findings highlighting the link between bullying involvement, friendship and mental health difficulties (Skrzypiec et al, 2012), and the positive link between friendship quality and adjustment (Waldrip et al, 2008). Therefore, through teachers tackling the skills children need to nurture effective interpersonal relationships, we argue that they are also addressing an important aspect which can contribute to positive mental health in schools
Period3 Jul 2013
Event titleChildren and Young People’s Mental Health Conference: Improving Outcomes, Widening Access and Tackling Stigma in an Age of Austerity
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionNational