Towards an inclusive understanding of bullying: identifying conceptions and practice in the primary school workforce.

Bullying is defined in a variety of ways in different contexts, and each individual school in England is required to develop its own definition, parameters and policy. This paper explores a variety of definitions from government and third sector organisations in the UK, making comparison with those from other contexts, specifically the USA and Australia. In particular it considers whether bullying is repeated behaviour or experience, and how labels such as target, victim and perpetrator have the potential to damage individual identities. It highlights common themes and differences across definitions and interpretations, comparing them with those of staff (n = 131) drawn from sixteen schools in one large local authority area in England, detailing their conceptions and experiences of bullying. These data were gathered through anonymous online questionnaires undertaken with staff in a variety of roles. The schools were self-selecting, having indicated a willingness to engage in a project to develop anti-bullying strategies and resources to promote children’s well-being, advocacy and self-esteem, led by GR8 AS UR (a not-for-profit organisation) and funded by a National Lottery Reaching Communities grant. The questionnaire elicited initial baseline data, including staff members’ experiences of bullying in schools and their personal definitions. The staff identify whether, where and how bullying is encountered in their settings, how they address such issues, and whether there are particular stimuli on which they focus. The conclusions indicate that a redeveloped, clear and understandable definition of bullying is needed that is accessible to all stakeholders in schools, including children. This needs to be inclusive in its focus, unambiguous and applicable across a broad range of settings, leaving aside the historical baggage associated with the subject.