Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Latest DCSF guidance on bullying and school uniforms

A rolled up tie

The DCSF has published two important guidance documents for schools so far this term.


Safe to Learn is the DCSF's guidance to schools on combating bullying. It is far and away the most comprehensive government guidance on the subject and represents the collective wisdom of many organisations, including ASCL. Here are some of the key principles.

  • Do not blame the victims. While they may have other problems which make them vulnerable, nothing justifies the bullying or a negligent response from the school. In particular, it is unlawful to 'exclude' a victim for his/her own good.

  • If a victim retaliates, schools should take great care in proceeding.

  • Equal weight should be given to all forms of bullying, including those linked to discrimination (racial or homophobic).

  • Schools are strongly advised to include in their policies staff-onstaff and staff-on-pupil bullying as well as pupil-on-pupil.

  • Schools should include new forms of bullying (cyber-bullying).

There is additional guidance on cyber-bullying which is welcome in four areas: clarifying legislation; clarifying school's powers; giving contact numbers and other methods of contacting providers of e-media; and providing extremely helpful advice sheets for parents and children which can be copied and circulated to stakeholders.

Another helpful section deals specifically with homophobic bullying.

ASCL would encourage members to make copies available to key staff and to use it to inform staff training and information sessions for parents and students.

School uniforms

The DCSF guidance on uniforms is extremely helpful in reiterating the value of a uniform or dress code and in making it quite clear that in law the governing body has the right to establish a dress code as it sees fit and that this includes a decision as to where the uniform should be sourced.

It is made clear that interference with the right to manifest religion has been allowed for reasons of security (preventing dress that obscures the face); teaching and learning (similarly); preventing young people from being put under external pressure; and to preserve internal harmony in a school. Schools must ensure that a uniform they choose does not prohibit pupils from applying.

The powers of heads to send pupils home to change are made clear. If a pupil does not return, this is unauthorised absence and should be treated as such. If refusal to wear uniform is persistent and a defiance of school discipline, only then may exclusion may be appropriate.

Download the DCSF guidance from www.teachernet.gov.uk/management/atoz/u/uniform

ASCL has produced a more detailed guidance paper on uniform and religious dress which is available on the website in the members' area under publications/guidance.

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