The purpose of this circular is to set out schools responsibilities following the commencement of Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (the Act) which will come into operation on 01 September 2021. It also provides an overview and link to the statutory guidance to accompany the Act.

The Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (NI) 2016

This new legislation provides a common definition of bullying; requires all schools to centrally record incidents of bullying, their motivation and their outcome; and requires the Board of Governors collectively to take responsibility for the development, implementation, monitoring and periodic review of the school’s Anti-Bullying policies and procedures.

  • Definition of Bullying

The Act contains a non-exhaustive definition of ‘bullying’ which applies only to pupil to pupil bullying, i.e. bullying behaviours by a pupil or a group of pupils against another pupil or group of pupils.


The definition includes 3 key elements:

    • Non-limitation to repeated behaviours
    • Methods of bullying
    • Intention to cause harm


  • Duty of Board of Governors to secure measures to prevent bullying

Governors play an extremely important role in supporting schools to ensure that pupils have every opportunity to develop their full potential within a caring and stimulating learning environment. Governors must work in close partnership with the Principal, staff, parents/carers and pupils to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their school in providing the best quality of education for all their pupils.

The Act clarifies the additional role Governors must play in developing their school’s anti-bullying policy. Governors must also ensure that measures are taken to prevent and address bullying behaviour and they must be informed about the prevalence of bullying and alleged bullying incidents, as well as the motivation behind these behaviours.


  • Duty to keep a record of incidents of bullying

Governors must ensure that all incidents that are reported as bullying are recorded.

It is important to have a fully transparent system so that reported incidents can be taken forward in line with the school policy and can be traced through the system as having been resolved by the school. The school will be able to record whether the alleged incident of bullying is confirmed and responded to through the Anti-Bullying Policy or if the alleged incident is responded to under another policy.


Statutory Guidance

Statutory guidance for Principals and Boards of Governors of all grant-aided schools and for the management of Education Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS) Centres has been produced to supplement the implementation of the Act.

This guidance, which can be accessed at follows the order of the Act and includes a standalone section to explain each element of the Act.

The guidance also uses case studies to illustrate and explore some of the requirements and implications arising from the Act for Principals and Boards of Governors.

This guidance should be used in conjunction with the NIABF Effective Responses to Bullying Behaviour resource file which supports schools to respond to, resolve and restore relationships when bullying behaviours occur.