Legally you are not required to however it is good practice to do so. If you do not know what is going on how can you deal with it?
It is important to train staff in reporting effectively and consistently, and to have forms which are easy and quick to use. The best way of doing this is to as much as possible design a form which has boxes and asks questions that require only key words. Staff are more reluctant to fill out incident forms if they are given huge empty boxes to describe incidents like a police report. Even vigilant well meaning staff, may put off filling a form in until later when they are not either teaching or running between classes. or because will put off until later when they have forgotten details.
Documenting the bullying complaint or act by completing an Incident Report will provide staff tangible proof to take action and if repeated acts of bullying are reported then further action may be required. If a particular pupil is threatening homophobic violence or language day after day after day, then schools may decide for a short/long term expulsion. They need evidence like incident forms to do this. In the long run, forms provide info on important trends in the bullying e.g. pupil populations (perpetrators and victims), locations of bullying and frequency at different times of the day.
Realise that such specifics of an incident report cannot be overlooked. It can be misleading if judgements are made on a school’s effectiveness in dealing with homophobia/transphobia by focusing only on the quantity of incidents.
e.g. A high figure of recorded incidents taken as a snapshot in any one term, does not on its own indicate the school is unwilling to tackle homophoic/transphobic bullying, although if reporting is accurate, if the levels of incidences do not reduce over time, clearly the school does have a problem with homophobia/transphobia. These schools might be successful in empowering staff and pupils to identify and report homophobia/transphobia. Therefore it is the number of reports that are increasing not the number of incidents.
Conversely schools with low numbers of homophobic/transphobic reports might not be giving staff/pupils the confidence needed or may make people feel there is no point in reporting because nothing is ever done and pupils are not protected.
1) Really tackling homophobia/transphobia is not just about doing the right training, or making staff feel more confident; it is about the impact of that training on the children and a reduction in the number of homophobic/transphobic incidents.
2) There is a huge difference between making staff aware of the importance of reporting homophobia/transphobia and empowering staff to intervene when they see homophobic/transphobic bullying. If too much emphasis is placed on reporting without empowering staff to intervene, then situations arise such as this. A teaching assistant identifies a serious homophobic incident. Because there has been so much emphasis on reporting and not enough training on interventions the well meaning teaching assistant who does not feel confident intervening in the incident thinks that it is enough to go straight into the office, quitely fill in a form, whilst the bullying continues not more than 100 metres away . Another example is the head of year that is so proud of the amount of times he has seen his department staff filling in incident report forms. He has neglected to go through his intray of forms for one month, confident that his staff are doing the job properly. Meanwhile his staff are please they have a manager who congratulates them on filling out forms and believe regularly follows up interventions. Meanwhile because they think he’s is following up and he thinks they are following up and staff don’t communicate and fill in the form in becomes the job to do not stopping the bullying, nobody realises that most of the bullying in Year 9 occurs in one teachers lesson, or in one area of the school where staff don’t patrol.
This is why with any reporting system needs staff (admin/head of years/SLT) to collate report data, analyse it, draw conclusions from, and at some point show impact through a reduction in incidents. Make it clear to staff that reporting is not an admin exercise, that real information, and real action is taken based on how/what staff report.
Schools therefore, with robust and working anti-bullying policies should also use reporting as a means to demonstrate the impact of their policies over time.
An effective incident form could cover any type of incident, if there was space for staff to indicate what type of incident occurred. Also having forms which specifically list homophobia/transphobia next to other forms of bullying e.g. racism, makes it clear that both forms of prejudice should be taken equally seriously.
The only incident that must have its own form, and distinct as such, is a potential safeguarding incident in which child protection concerns might be raised.
Therefore the system needs to log at the very least
- What type of incident was it? e.g accident/bullying/damage to property, theft etc (notice that the benefit of having one form is that incidents can be cross referenced on one page e.g. a pupil damaged a fire hydrant and blamed it on someone else, or a boys pencil case was stolen and then returned with racist language written on it.
- Which of these did it involve? Racism, Sexism, Homophobia etc. (remember that pupils can experience mulitple discrimination i.e. many comments and insults surrounding homophobia/transphobia also take place in the context of sexism i.e. a girl is taunted and laughed at by her friends because all her friends are boys and she doesn’t like to wear make-up after school. They pejoratively call her a ‘butch dyke”. Their homophobia stems from their sexist attitudes that girls can only behave a certain way. Finding how prejudice interlinks like this through effective reporting is crucial in challenging it.in this case, their homophobia cannot be challenged unless they are aware of the effects of their gender stereotyping.)
- Where/when/time of day did it take place? Consider how far your duty of care extends. Would you fill out an incident report if a child reported that another pupil was bullying them whilst walking home from school? or during the weekends? check your policy, use your judgement and gut instinct. Sometimes just because it doesn’t require an report on paper doesn’t mean you can’t act, use the information to connect dots, inform parents etc.
- Who was involved? Perpetrator/s and Victim/s. Makes it easier to monitor incidence of particular pupil involvement over time.
- What happend? Include: What was the antecedent to the incident? Were any physical injuries sustained? Where? What was the aftermath? It is also worth noting (if possible) how other pupils responded as witnesses. It is absolutely right that schools take hard line against pupils who are seen to be either a) egging on fights, or b) seen to be not reporting incidents they are caught passively observing. Students who constantly act as bystanders to school fights are at risk of becoming complacent to violence or abuse in later life. Many studies have been conducted on the effect of domestic violence that children witness between their parents. Children spend large part of their week at school, and cannot go unaffected by seeing numerous incidents where pupils attack and verbally abuse each other. This could be addressed in Citizenship lessons (rights and responsibilities)
- Who has reported it? (vital! here’s why: Mr. Jones and Ms. Smith both share the same lunch duty, near to each other on the playground. Because staff are required to sign their names on reporting forms, it is discovered after a mid-term evaluation that Mr. Jones has reported 16 incidents over the half term, whilst Ms. Smith has reported none. Why the disparity in figures if their locations on duty are so close? And how can the answer improve staff training and reduce the ‘bullying’? Here are some possibilities for the discrepancy :
a) The children know Ms.Smith is extremely vigilant and strict. They make sure they are out of earshot before they taunt and bullying
b) Ms. Smith does hear / see as much bullying as Mr. Jones, but she doesn’t see the importance of reporting it, or she means to report it but always forgets, or she never signs her name on the form and so it appears as if she is not reporting it.
c) Mr. Jones, an NQT, experienced bullying as a child. He is determined to never allow bullying to happen now he is a teacher. He is so determined and the issue is so personal to him, that he often over reports and jumps to conclusions without investigating. He is also new and doesn’t know the children that well. What Mr. Jones considers bullying most of his colleagues would identify as harmless rough and tumble consistent with that particular group of friends over the years.
Who has been informed. e.g. parents, teachers, governors, local authority?
6. What was done about it? Immediately, subsequently….. (Effective sanctions are crucial and gives victims, staff and perpetrators a clear message that the school takes seriously the safety of everyone as is their statuary duty.)
7.Was the victim happy with the action?
If any incident no matter how small involves potential for physical injury it must be reported. Injuries can resurface several years laters e.g head bangs/trauma, and severely affect victims later on. If there is no record of the incident and if staff involved have moved on, it almost makes the incident invisible.
If an incident occurs at school, we advise the parents/carers must be informed *before* the child gets home. Some children who live very near their school can be home by 3.45pm, so it is not advisable to wait until after a staff meeting or similar after school event. Parents/carers need to know the full story before they speak to their child, so that they are dealing with the situation consistently with school. Also be aware that a large number of incidents can occur during a child’s journey to and from school, whether using public transport, or walking. Schools for pupils with Special Education Needs or with Emotional and Behavioural Diffculties generally bus children into and out of school using local authority transport. This journey might last up to 2hours the children who are picked up first, or dropped off – last even if they live only 20mins walk away. School buses are generally assigned per borough, and their journies will span every child in that borough before it arrives at school. Bus escorts need to be informed of any prblems children have had with others at the end of the day, if a perpetrator and a victim of the same incident are to share the same bus. Also escorts need to be trained in spotting homophobic/transphobic behaviour so that they can stop it and inform the teacher upon arrival at school. All employees of a school need to be aware and feel able to respond to homophobic/transphobic bullying e.g. dinner ladies, receptionists, librarians, caretakers, IT technicians, TAs etc. An employee who says that it is not their responsibility to break up fights/challenge or report homophobic bullying needs to
a) be reminded of their duty of care when working in an environment with children (even if they do not have day to day contact with the pupils) and
b) could be asked to consider whether they would ignore children in their family or someone in the street being treated the same way.