What is bullying behaviour?
At The Diana Award, we define bullying behaviour as ‘repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe’. If you are not sure if something is bullying behaviour, ask yourself: is it repeated, negative and intentional? Even if an incident does not qualify as bullying behaviour, you should still report it to a trusted adult to help resolve it and prevent it from happening again, to yourself or others.
From the ‘The Big Assembly’ survey conducted by The Diana Award in 2021, 14% of those who reported experiencing bullying behaviour said it was linked to their academic ability in school. Academic ability describes how someone performs in school; this could be what grades they get on tests, or their participation in class.
Bullying behaviour related to academic ability can be categorised into three different types: verbal, indirect and physical. Some examples include:
· Verbal: shouting at a person because of their grades or contribution in school, calling someone mean names or slurs like ‘dumb’ or ‘nerd’, or saying nasty things to another and passing it off as ‘just banter’.
· Indirect: refusing to work with someone in class because of their academic ability, spreading rumours based on another person’s academic ability, or sending nasty messages to someone online about their, or somebody else’s, academic ability.
· Physical: hitting or punching another person because of their grades or their class participation, or someone pulling out another’s chair from underneath them because of their academic ability.
People who display bullying behaviour towards others because of academic ability may do so for a variety of reasons, including:
· They are jealous of someone else’s grades or class contributions
· They don’t understand that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses
· They have been influenced outside of school to think a certain way about academic ability
· They are scared to contribute to class themselves
· They are repeating behaviours they have seen other people display in school.
Why do academic abilities differ from person to person?
There are manyreasons we all have different academic abilities, exam results and levels ofcontribution in class settings, such as:
· Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and interests
· Our relationships with our teachers and their teaching style may affect how well we concentrate in class
· Specialeducational needs (SEN) or disabilities might mean some pupils need reasonableadjustments or extra support to thrive at school
· Someone may be experiencing bullying behaviour which causes them to lose focus on their studies.
· Stress and anxiety can prevent people contributing in class
· Pupils could be experiencing a difficult home life, which could affect their concentration or energy levels at school
· Young carers may have a lot of additional responsibilities at home which makes it harder to prioritise homework.
The impact on people experiencing bullying behaviour because of academic ability. Experiencing this type of bullying behaviour may cause stress and worry. This could be worse during class contribution sand discussions, group work or one-to-one with a teacher and can lead to:
· Change in grades or academic performance
· Problems sleeping and eating
· Skipping school or certain classes
· Avoiding certain people in school
· Staying away from usual friendship groups.
What can I do if I’m experiencing bullying behaviour related to my academic ability?
1. Tell someone. It may feel hard to reach out to someone and tell them what’s been going on, but it is a very important step to getting the help and support you need. Make sure you tell a trusted adult, parent, carer, or teacher so that they can help to resolve the situation. If your school has Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, speak to one of them for advice. Talk to the teachers of the classes in which you are experiencing bullying behaviour. They can help by making sure that you are not put in groups with the perpetrators and can let other teachers know what’s happening if necessary.
2. Speak to your friends and see if they can become an Upstander for you both in and outside of class. If they witness the bullying behaviour happening, they can help to explain to the perpetrator why their behaviour is hurtful and unacceptable. They can also report any bullying behaviour that is happening to an adult or an Anti-Bullying Ambassador.
3. If the bullying behaviour is happening online, screenshot the evidence, report it and block the account.
4. Do not react with anger or aggression; this will only risk escalating the situation. Instead, try to remove yourself from the situation and seek advice on how to respond to the situation safely.
Further support and information:
The Diana Award Advice Messenger.
If you are a young person in the UK in need of support, contact The Diana Award Crisis Messenger for free*, 24/7 support. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think through the next step towards feeling better. *Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
Kids Charity offers free help and support to young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
Councils provide information and support for young people and can direct young people to local charities.
The Mix is the UK’s leading support service for young people. They are there to help young people take on any challenge they’re facing. You can a via our online community, on social, through our free, confidential helpline or our counselling service.
UK Youth is a leading charity with a vision that all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives.