- School should be a good place to be – and your rights and your dignity should always be respected, even if you haven’t followed the school rules
- You should be able to complain if something is worrying you or upsetting you at school
- In some cases, you may be able to take your complaint further if your school doesn’t deal with the problem or concern properly
If there is something at school that affects every pupil. Or a group of pupils, that you think is unfair, you could raise it with your School Council. It might be something about the amount of homework you are getting, or a new rule that has been introduced. You might also want to ask the School Council to discuss something that you think should be done at school. The School Council can’t deal with individual matters, though. If it’s something very specific to you, you will need to deal with it in a different way.
Being bullied is a terrible experience for anyone. You may be scared to talk to anyone about what is happening to you, but the sooner you tell someone, the quicker it can be sorted out.
If you don’t want to speak to anyone at school straightaway, and you can’t talk to your parents, you can get in touch with an organisation that provides advice and support by phone or online – and you don’t have to tell them who you are. Sometimes, just talking to someone else can help.
Every secondary school will have an independent counselling service on site. Although it’s at school, it has to be independent, which means it isn’t linked to the school. Just talking to the counsellor may help you work out what you want to do about the bullying.
Depending on how you are being bullied, the people bullying you may also be breaking the law. This could include if the person (or people) bullying you is hurting you, or the bullying relates to something like your race or your gender. Your school may get in touch with the police, or you or your parents may want to do this if the behaviour is continuing and nothing seems to be changing.
It isn’t just children who bully other children. There is a chance that you might find yourself being bullied by a teacher. Teachers have to make sure that the classroom has the right atmosphere for learning, but they need to make sure that any action they take to keep school discipline respects your dignity and your rights.
If you think a teacher is treating you unfairly, you might be able to sort things out by talking to the teacher, or perhaps your form teacher or tutor, the head of year, or the head teacher. One of your parents might be able to help you. If you can’t get things sorted out, you can use your school complaints procedure to try and sort things out. Every school should have a complaints procedure.
Your school isn’t allowed to treat you unfairly because of a disability that you have. ‘Disability’ has a specific meaning in law. It means having a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.
A ‘physical impairment’ is something which affects your body. It could be something like epilepsy or cancer, or cerebral palsy. You might have a physical impairment if you can’t see or hear properly, or can’t use your arms or legs.
A ‘mental impairment’ could be something like Autism or learning difficulties, or emotional or behavioural difficulties.
Sometimes, the school might make a decision which is unfair but the school will be able to justify it. An example would be if you are a wheelchair user and you are told you can’t go on a school trip because it wouldn’t be safe. If the school has carried out a health & safety assessment which says that it wouldn’t be safe to take you, that decision might be justified. If the school hasn’t done any kind of assessment and has just assumed it wouldn’t be safe for you to go on the trip, it would be harder to justify that decision.
You should always try and solve any issues like this by talking to your teacher or to someone else at school. If they can’t help you, you can use the school complaints policy, and you could make a claim to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales if the problems continue.
You don’t have to be disabled yourself to suffer from disability discrimination. You might be treated unfairly because one of your friends is disabled. Perhaps other people bully you because of your friendship. This would be disability discrimination. You might also find that you are treated unfairly at school because someone thinks you have a disability – even if you don’t. If you are having this kind of problem, your school should resolve it. If they don’t again, you may be able to bring a claim to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal Wales.
Teachers are allowed to deal with your behaviour if you have broken a school rule or code of conduct. When they do this, they have to act reasonably, and respect your rights and your dignity. Your teachers should never be violent towards you or abuse you. Teachers and other school staff can use what is called ‘reasonable force’ to stop you from hurting yourself or others, from damaging property or disrupting the school. If you think that you have been treated unfairly for breaking a school rule or because of your behaviour, you can complain to the school. If you’ve been hurt by a teacher, you might want to report it to the police who can investigate what happened. You can find out more about what happens if you’re in trouble at school here.
If you regularly break your school’s behaviour policy, or do something very serious such as harm another pupil or a teacher, your school might consider excluding you. You can be excluded for half a day, a day, a few days or for longer. In serious cases you might be permanently excluded from school. Your school has to consider all possible other options before excluding you. It also has to follow a procedure before excluding you, including investigating what has happened and talking to you about it. If you are excluded, you have the right to appeal, so if you have been treated unfairly, you should do this.
Your school has to make sure it doesn’t treat you unfairly when it excludes you for something like your race or your gender or a disability.