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Reporting and responding to Bullying and Prejudice/Hate Incidents (BPHI) in Schools, Pupil Referral Units and other settings for children and young people

This information and process has been developed in partnership by Devon County Council, Babcock LDP and Devon and Cornwall Police.

Devon and Cornwall police logo Devon county council logo Babcock learning and development partnership logo

Children and young people tell us that bullying and prejudice/hate incidents (BPHIs) happen, and we are encouraging schools to record, report and respond to such incidents.

Children and young people learn best in an environment where they feel safe and respected. Being exposed to bullying and expressions of prejudice/hatred can undermine that sense of safety and respect and affect educational outcomes.

We have developed guidance and a procedure for anyone in a school/youth setting to report an incident, however minor (anonymously if necessary). Download and print our poster to raise awareness.

We expect schools to send reports to Babcock LDP so that we can monitor what is happening in Devon (using this data to monitor wider community tensions with the Police if necessary). Babcock LDP will provide support and resources to schools who report: You need to report to get the support!

We do not think that reporting an incident means there is a problem in a school. We think that not reporting is a problem. Logo: zero tolerance to hate crime

Will a report result in a child having a criminal record? No, unless the incident was a crime (GBH, for example) in which case you have a duty to notify the Police directly anyway. The majority of incidents are ‘low level’ such as racist or homophobic comments. Please see our section on ‘why is it important to report and respond to incidents?’ for further information on why you should respond to ‘low level’ incidents as a way of preventing hate crime in adulthood.

BPHI Report forms

Please contact Babcock LDP if you have any questions about the form or process, or need further support on addressing BPHIs in your school.



Recognise, respond, record, review, report, revise.


  • Legal duties and responsibilities

    There are a number of legal duties and responsibilities placed on schools in relation to responding to and reporting bullying and prejudice/hate incidents including:

    • Equality Act 2010
    • Education and Inspections Act 2006
    • Children Act 1989
    • Recommendation 17 – Stephen Lawrence Inquiry
    • Ofsted Framework for School Inspection 2012
    • National Crime Reporting Standard
    • Communications Act 2003
    • Malicious Communications Act 1988
    • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
    • Public Order Act 1986

    Find out more

  • What is bullying?

    Bullying may be defined as deliberately hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those bullied to defend themselves. Bullying may or may not be because of a protected characteristic (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) – sometimes referred to as ‘identity based bullying’.

  • What is a prejudice/hate incident?

    Prejudice/hate incidents are one-off incidents relating to a protected characteristic which may or may not be directed at an individual. A ‘hate’ incident intends to cause harm or offence, whereas a ‘prejudice’ related incident may be out of ignorance or stereotyping and with no intention to, or expectation that it will, cause harm or offence. Hate is quite a strong word, and some suggest that ‘hostility’ is a more useful definition.

    Incidents can include:

    Incident description
    Verbal Name calling and ridicule such as racist, sexist or homophobic remarks. Offensive stereotyping.
    Visual Graffiti, gestures, wearing racist insignia or showing offensive pictures.
    Incitement Spreading rumours or encouraging others to participate.
    Cyber Using technology such as text, email or social media. It can include ‘sexting’ – making someone share sexual images of themselves.
    Segregation Excluding, isolating, ignoring or avoiding an individual from activities or a peer group because of their identity/background.
    Physical Hitting, pushing, unwanted touching, kicking, threat with a weapon. Forcing someone to perform an act against their will.
    Property Theft or damage to personal property, extortion.

    If carried out against an individual over a period of time, this would amount to bullying; if carried out against an individual on more than one occasion with the intent to cause harm or distress, this could be regarded as harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act (a criminal offence).

    Find out more about the impact of bullying and prejudice/hate incidents on different groups.

  • Why do bullying and prejudice/hate incidents occur?

    BPHIs may arise because an individual is seen to be different.  Individuals may be seen as different because of their:

    • Ethnic origin, skin colour, nationality or culture including Travellers and Gypsies (racism).
    • Religion or belief.
    • Sexual orientation (homophobia).
    • Sex or gender identity (sexism/transphobia).
    • Disability or Special Educational Needs.
    • Family circumstances, for example they are in care.

    It may be they are perceived to have a particular characteristic or they are associated with someone with that characteristic.  For example, a child whose parents are practising Pagans may be picked on by others who do not understand Pagan traditions…(in a derogatory way) “your mum’s a witch”.

    Research indicates that there are groups of children who are bullied disproportionately.  These include disabled children and those who have special educational needs, and children who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian or gay. Some children are singled out because they are overweight, affluent, deprived, in care or young carers, or for a variety of other reasons.  Sometimes the aggressor can’t explain the reasons; they just see their target as ‘different’.

    The motivation may be because of:

    • irrational fear
    • ignorance
    • wanting to achieve a sense of power
    • envy or
    • conformity (going along with others).

    Behaviours are often learnt; understanding the motivation is important because it may reveal concerns for the safety of the aggressor or other needs they have.

    Children and young people (and adults!) may use words without an understanding of their meaning but the impact on the target can still be harmful.  A child may not understand the meaning of a word and use it as a form of insult because they have heard it being used in that way by others, but a child of equivalent age may be very familiar with the meaning because of their family background.

    Stereotypes are powerful and pervade our society.  Not all stereotypes cause harm but many reinforce prejudices that can result in attitudes and behaviours that lead to bullying and other forms of physical or psychological harm.

    Insults can surface fleetingly in lessons or during playground activities: comments such as “you’re just a girl” addressed to either gender, “that’s so gay” or “you mong”.  Such comments can be seen as part of growing up, and may seem unremarkable or irrelevant, but if left un-tackled they contribute to an adverse culture in the school in which bullying is more likely to occur.  This needs to be challenged and prevented as far as possible by building a culture of respect and empathy.

    In a study carried out by Ofsted (‘No place for bullying’ June 2012), many pupils said that they were aware that such language was unacceptable but it was seen as ‘banter’.  Staff who also viewed it as banter did not challenge it, or feel they have the confidence or skills to challenge it.

  • Why is it important to report and respond to incidents?

    Research has shown that identity based murders (racism, homophobia etc.) and genocide do not happen ‘out of nowhere’. There is always a culture of hostility that begins with communication. This is why we are working with the Police to address even ‘low level’ incidents in schools because left unchecked, young people will grow up thinking it is acceptable to express prejudice, intolerance or hatred towards others. It is not a question of removing ‘freedom of speech’ but about ensuring that people show respect, kindness and understanding of others so that beliefs do not manifest into physical acts of discrimination.

    People who experience hate crime are four times more likely to develop anxiety or depression, compared with people who experience other crimes.

    Responses such as “it’s just kids being kids” or “toughen up…you just need to put up with comments like that if you’re [gay etc.]” are completely unacceptable, yet we know that some teachers respond to pupils’ concerns in this way from feedback received from young people.

    Watch this video to learn more (includes voiceover or can be viewed without sound)

    Sign the local #ZeroTolerance2Hate Pledge

  • How do I respond to bullying or a prejudice/hate incident?

    A successfully inclusive culture with learning environments that value diversity and foster respect and good relations can reduce the level of bullying and prejudice/hate incidents, and if they do occur (because they can, even in schools and establishments operating good practice), can settle the situation more readily.

    Schools and establishments that succeed in addressing bullying and prejudice/hate incidents will have created a strong ethos of respect and good behaviour amongst children and staff. Everyone will have a clear understanding of how their actions affect others, with staff and older children/young adults setting a good example.

    When prejudice/hate comments occur in the classroom, playground, or other place where children/young people gather, staff (including volunteers) need to have the training and expertise to respond in a constructive way that helps children/young people develop appropriate behaviour.  For untrained staff, finding an appropriate response can be difficult, especially if the school/organisational culture fails to reinforce inclusive attitudes which value diversity.  Training needs to focus on the different types of bullying (covering all diversity characteristics) that could occur and the effects they have; general and non-specific training does not equip staff with the skills they need.

    Expressions of prejudice can also come from parents and carers; sometimes these can be aggressive and targeted directly at staff.  Schools will need to work closely with parents and carers, and other members of the community, to reach a better understanding of the schools values and benefits of a society that challenges bullying and prejudice.  Staff who are victims of BPHIs will also need support and intervention.

    Find out more

    Further support

    Babcock LDP Resources and Support

    Early Help for Mental Health Service – Being on the receiving end of bullying or prejudice/hate incidents can affect mental wellbeing. Young people have access to face to face counselling (via Young Devon) and online advice, self-help tools and counselling (via Kooth).

    Further guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

  • How do I complete the staff report form?

    Complete the form with as much information as possible. You may have to come back to it and complete it in stages as information or actions become clear.

    If an incident results in physical injury or a threat with a weapon, you must also complete a RIDDOR or OSHENS (health and safety) report.

    You should complete a report regardless of whether the pupil/parent has also reported the incident.

    Details of those involved

    Ideally the individual should self-classify their gender, disability and ethnicity. If you classify on their behalf you should check the details are correct. You could use the pupil’s admissions data provided it is accurate and up to date.

    • A Target is someone on direct receiving end of an incident or bullying (sometimes referred to as the ‘victim’).
    • An Aggressor is someone who causes the incident or bullying (sometimes referred to as a ‘perpetrator’), whether they intended to cause offence or not, or were aware of their actions being inappropriate or not.
    • A Witness is someone who sees or hears an incident and is upset by it.
    • A Participant is someone who assists the Aggressor in their actions.
    • A Bystander is a passive participant, unlike a witness they condone the incident or bullying and usually form an ‘audience’ for the Aggressor.

    Gender categories:

    • Female/girl
    • Male/boy
    • Non-binary (doesn’t identify as male or female)

    If the child wishes to identify as Transgender or Trans too, please record this.

    Disability/SEN categories:

    • Autistic spectrum disorder
    • Behaviour, emotional and social difficulty
    • Hearing impairment – Deaf (British Sign Language user)
    • Hearing impairment
    • Moderate learning difficulty
    • Multi-sensory impairment
    • Other difficulty or disability (includes mental or other health condition)
    • Physical disability (for example, mobility or manual dexterity)
    • Profound and multiple learning difficulty
    • Specific learning difficulty
    • Severe learning difficulty
    • Speech, language and communication difficulty
    • Visual impairment

     Categories for Religion and Belief:

    • Buddhist
    • Christian
    • Hindu
    • Humanist
    • Jewish
    • Muslim
    • No religion/belief
    • Other religion (please describe)
    • Pagan
    • Sikh

    Categories for Ethnic Origin:

    Where relevant, state the individual’s nationality for example, British, Polish, Irish and their first language if this is not English. Some children may be ‘Travellers’ but not one defined as an ethnic group, this includes New Age Travellers.

    Asian/Asian British

    • Indian
    • Pakistani
    • Bangladeshi
    • Other Asian background

    Black/Black British

    • Caribbean
    • African
    • Other Black background


    • Hong Kong Chinese
    • Other Chinese background

    Mixed heritage

    • White & Black Caribbean
    • White & Black African
    • White & Asian
    • Other mixed heritage


    • White British
    • White Irish
    • Irish Traveller
    • Greek/Greek Cypriot
    • Eastern European
    • Western European
    • Gypsy/Roma
    • Other White background

    Other ethnic origin (please describe)

    • Arab
    • Filipino
    • Iranian
    • Other ethnic origin

  • Prejudice/Hate Incident Data

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