We know that the bullying of children with unusual appearances is all too common

Top Ten Tips

Read our Top Ten Tips for making your school a great place to come and learn, where youngsters feel safe and motivated, and are less likely to resort to bullying.

1. Check out your own feelings and ideas about appearance and disfigurement.

Do the Face Equality survey.
Read more about research into people’s implicit attitudes towards appearance and disfigurement. Read more about face equality.

2. Replace the tired old stereotypes with real people.

Disfigurement stereotypes are widely used to convey loneliness, moral inferiority, and other negative qualities. But real people aren’t like this. Meet them:

– Victoria
– Michelle
– Adam
– Lucas
– What Success Looks Like

3. Use matter-of-fact, non-judgemental language.

Train yourself to replace commonly used emotive language around appearance and difference with ordinary objective vocabulary. Read more at Language Matters. See also our Lesson idea: writing for good to help children use neutral language when writing about facial injuries in World War 1.

4. Make good use of images.

People often associate having a disfigured appearance with tragedy and/or bad character. The wellbeing of all your students, as well as the Public Sector Equality Duty, call for positive images that reflect the whole range of looks. Read more at Image Matters. If you’re struggling to find positive images of children whose appearance is unusual, Changing Faces can help.

5. Do the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Use our guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty (England) to help you maximise well-being and outcomes for all your pupils, and especially for any child whose unusual appearance makes them vulnerable to being seen as ‘different’ or as ‘special’.

6. Never patronise.

Face equality means equal expectations and equal respect, no compensatory special treatment because you feel sorry for someone that you teach.

Find out more about face equality in education. Reward children for their efforts and achievements – never for some intrinsic quality they may possess.

Read Star Equality and do our CPD or Inset Session (even if you are not teaching Wonder) to clear up any concerns you may have about delivering equal opportunity in education for a child whose appearance is unusual.

7. Check your school's bullying and harassment policy. There are some important research-based dos and don'ts.

The important thing is to STOP the bullying. You don’t have to make children be friends – and anyway, you can’t. But school staff can – and must – intervene every time someone in your school is harassed or bullied.

Check out the key dos and don’ts and our anti-bullying policy guidelines.
Remember: Disfigurement is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 so bullying or harassment that targets a child with a disfigurement may be a hate-crime requiring police involvement.

8. Never ask children to get themselves into groups for a lesson or games activity.

Unpopular children (which often means the one who looks different) can be seriously hurt by the experience of being unwanted when everyone around them is getting into groups or being chosen for teams. Always plan and organise the groups or teams yourself. Working in groups provides important opportunities for children to get to know each other better, and to learn about communicating and co-operating. Include these in your learning objectives for any lesson which includes a group activity.

9. Equip all children personal and social tools for the times when they feel vulnerable about the way they look.

In our image-obsessed culture, anyone can have a wobble about how they look. Research shows that having a strategy to cope when feeling vulnerable is closely linked to increased tolerance of difference and to reduced bullying. Use Change the impulse for teachers and Change the impulse for pupils, to reduce all your pupils’ appearance anxiety, improve their social skills, and raise their self esteem.

10. Tackle unsafe spaces.

Invite children to take photographs of the places in and around school where they feel unsafe or less safe. Certain times of the school day might be a factor too. This is crucial information for staff. Places where children don’t feel safe need to be modified, or allocated an extra staff presence. Repeat this exercise from time to time, to ensure all children feel safe at school, all the time.