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What are the best ways of tackling bullying in school?

A technique which can be used to tackle bullying in school is the No Blame Approach. As the name suggests, one of the most important things about this approach is that it deliberately avoids accusations, blame and punishment. The first step is to interview the victim, with the aim of finding out how he/she feels. The child will be asked to draw a picture or write something to communicate his/her distress. With the child's full knowledge and approval, the next step involves getting together the children involved in the bullying (including bystanders) and perhaps some non-involved children. This group (which does not include the victim) will then be made aware of the victim's distress and will be encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to come up with ideas for making the bullied person feel happier. It should be mentioned that the No Blame Approach (which may mistakenly be viewed as a technique which condones bullying) can also be described as the Support Group Approach.


It is difficult to argue that serious, intentional, repeated, physical bullying should not be met with the imposition of some sort of sanctions. Indeed physical violence such as this is a crime - and schools are subject to the law of the land. However, this type of bullying is far less common than name-calling and exclusion, although we know from the testimony of victims the hurt which can be caused by being taunted and deliberately isolated.

Many parents, pupils and teachers expect "bullies" to be punished, but in many cases punishment will be ineffective or inappropriate - and children cannot be punished for refusing to play with another child. That is why schools are increasingly adopting new reactive strategies such as No Blame, (which is now often called the Support Group approach) and the related Shared Concern method. These strategies allow effective intervention in situations where guilt cannot be proved, or where it is unclear whether what has happened is bullying or a relationship problem.

The 'shared concern' method is a Swedish technique which has much in common with the "No Blame Approach". It has not been widely used in Britain, perhaps because it is more elaborate and time consuming. Both of these methods have been criticised for failing to allocate blame but both aim to bring an early end to episodes of bullying and to encourage young people to accept responsibility for their actions.

It should be noted that the No Blame Approach is particularly useful in dealing with group bullying and name-calling. However, it may be an inappropriate response to other types of bullying. It should only be applied with the full agreement of the bullied child and after a professional judgement has been made about whether the bullying children are capable of understanding the hurt they have caused. A small number of children who bully others have serious social, emotional and behavioural problems. In such cases the No Blame Approach could expose the victim to the possibility of even more bullying.
(Andrew Mellor)


Article details

Research article by S Young (1998), 'Educational Psychology in Practice', volume 14. Reproduced here.