Effective and supportive policies

On this page:

Schools with clear and consistent policy and procedures send a strong message to the whole school community about their beliefs and actions to support a safe and supportive school environment.

Your school should have a policy that clearly defines what bullying is so the whole school community has a shared understanding of bullying behaviour. You should clearly state that the school does not accept bullying and your policy should set out how your school community will address it.

Your policy might be part of a broader policy, for example a positive behaviour or safe school policy, or it may be a specific stand alone bullying prevention policy.

The policy should guide the decisions made when working to prevent bullying or responding to a bullying incident. It should be reviewed regularly to make sure it up to date and works effectively.

Bullying prevention and response policy framework

The framework below outlines what schools could consider including in a bullying prevention and response policy.

Section One: Your school’s culture, the rationale for the policy and definition of bullying 

A safe, positive physical and emotional school environment is important for student achievement and wellbeing and enables all students to be included.  

Outline your school’s expectations, the principles underlying this policy (including NAG 5) and your school’s agreed definition of what is and what is not bullying behaviour (including descriptions of the different types of bullying). 

For example: 

  • an agreed statement confirming your school community’s expectations about creating a safe, positive environment, and commitment to bullying prevention and response.
  • principles underpinning the policy, including legal requirements (Education Act 1989, NAG 5) 
  • an agreed definition of bullying, including cyberbullying, in your school and how this definition will be promoted 
  • descriptions of types of bullying behaviours. 

Section Two: Preventive approach and response 

Real change happens when students, staff, parents, whānau and other members of the community share responsibility for making a school a respectful and inclusive environment. 

Outline your school’s approach and the activities in place to prevent and respond to bullying when it occurs. Include strategies for developing and implementing whole-school bullying prevention programmes. 

For example: 

  • regularly surveying and gathering data to identify areas for improvement (e.g. Wellbeing@School student surveys)
  • bullying prevention action plan based on gaps and issues identified as part of the survey findings
  • promoting your expectations and successes in preventing and responding to bullying, including cyber bullying
  • professional learning and development to reach a common understanding of recognising and responding to bullying
  • staff training
  • providing appropriate guidance and counselling for students
  • outlining strategies to prevent bullying; for example, curriculum-based programmes, social problem-solving solutions, student-led initiatives, parent/whānau involvement, collaboration with community providers.

Section Three: Responding when bullying occurs 

It is important to consistently respond to all incidents of bullying that have been reported and ensure that planned interventions are used to respond to these incidents. 

Outline your school’s responses to ensure that support is provided to any student who has been affected by, participated in, or witnessed bullying behaviour. Support the whole-school community to recognise and respond appropriately to bullying when it occurs. Provide clear advice on the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, caregivers and teachers for preventing and responding to bullying behaviour.

For example: 

  • responding to the incident—how do you identify and address incidents of different severity? What are your procedures for when bullying occurs?
  • monitoring and identifying patterns of behaviour
  • what happens if the behaviour occurs outside of school?
  • when responding to cyberbullying? Will you focus more on the behaviour involved and less on the digital technology used?
  • when and who will provide support and advice (within the school community and from other agencies)?
  • how you will work with the targets, bystanders and initiators of bullying behaviour?
  • escalating incidents to senior management and other agencies
  • dealing with complaints
  • communicating with parents and caregivers about the bullying incident/s and promoting your successes in your safe school culture
  • regularly recognising your efforts in bullying prevention, and response and review strategies/initiatives.

Section Four: Communicating the policy 

The school community needs to be aware of, and involved in, school bullying policies. Good communication is needed between home and school so that any reported bullying can be recognised and responded to effectively. 

Outline how you will ensure the policy is widely advertised and readily accessible to all students, parents, family and whānau, and the community. 

For example:

  • regular activities to raise the awareness of your school approach to bullying and celebrate promoting a positive school culture, for example parent evenings, assemblies, class-based activities, displays
  • regular communications to the wider school community; for example, reports to the Board of Trustees, school newsletters, information (including the policy) on the school’s website
  • making the policy available in multiple formats (in print, on the web and in school notices and newsletters)
  • ensuring it is concise and written in plain English (and translated into other languages where necessary). 

Section Five: Evaluation and review

This policy should be regularly reviewed and revised to ensure that the school's bullying prevention practices are recognised and celebrated.

Outline how your school will find out if the policy is working. 

For example

  • meeting regularly to monitor, review and modify the policy and action plan (to reflect changes with the school, survey findings, incident reviews)
  • celebrating your effectiveness in promoting a safe and inclusive culture
  • tracking and monitoring all bullying-related incidents and regularly reporting to the school community
  • regularly gathering data from the school community (for example, Wellbeing@School student surveys)
  • reporting on the effectiveness of the policy and the school’s commitment to bullying prevention and response to the school community
  • seeking continued feedback.

Sample policy

This sample policy can be used to develop a school bullying prevention and response policy. It is a sample only and should be adapted to suit your school environment

The rationale

The rationale or purpose section explains why the policy is being written.

It will include an agreed statement and confirmation of your school community’s expectations about creating a safe, positive environment and the principles underpinning your policy including legal requirements (NAG 5).

Policy Statement

The Policy Statement is a brief statement of what the policy aims to achieve.


Your school’s agreed definition of bullying. This should include examples of types of bullying behaviours, and how the definition has been developed e.g. by consulting with staff, parents and whānau and students.

Bullying Prevention

The Bullying Prevention section is to outline how the policy (e.g. what steps) will prevent bullying behaviour. It will include prevention-focused activities and interventions.

Bullying Response

The Bullying Response section outlines how you will respond (e.g. what steps you will take) when bullying has occurred or has been reported. It will include actions and interventions to follow up with initiators, targets and bystanders following an incident.

Raising Awareness

The Raising Awareness section outlines how you will communicate the policy, to make sure it is known about and easy for all staff, students, parents, family and whānau, and the community to access.

Evaluation and review

You should include how you will review your policy on a regular basis. This may be annually, or as legislation or regulations change.

Resource icon

Sample Bullying Prevention and Response Policy

The sample policy can be used to develop a school bullying prevention and response policy. It is a sample only and should be adapted to suit your school's environment.

Reviewing policies

In gathering and analysing data, you may find that your school’s bullying prevention policies need to be revised.

Every school is required to have a policy that defines bullying and sets out how the school community will address it. This can be a stand-alone policy or part of a wider behaviour or safe school policy.

Your policy should state clearly that bullying is unacceptable. School leaders need to have a thorough understanding of the definition of bullying used in the policy and ensure that all members of the school community know and use that same definition. A school’s policy will also support staff in their decision making when bullying happens, so it needs to be reviewed regularly to make sure it’s working.

Bullying prevention is everyone's responsibility, including the school community. That's why school policies should reflect the values, attitudes and climate of your school community.  Since a policy will set out expectations and behaviours for the whole-school community, it should be developed collaboratively with representatives from across the community. Involving the school community in this process builds a shared commitment to preventing bullying and promoting a safe and inclusive learning environment.