In April 2024, Diana Award staff met with Anti-Bullying Ambassadors (ABAs) and staff from Barking Abbey to learn about the work they have been doing throughout the year and the impact on the wider community.


Barking Abbey School in East London first took part in The Diana Award’s Anti-Bullying Ambassador Programme (ABAP) in 2016, thanks to funding from the Department for Education. In September 2022 and again in March 2024, students attended training sessions sponsored by the Department of Education, meaning the school currently has over 30 Ambassadors from Year 7 to Year 9.  The Ambassadors have been involved in delivering workshops to different year groups with a focus on inclusivity and mental health, helping students understand the deeper effects of bullying behaviour and helping them feel safe enough to report or call it out. 

In April 2024, Diana Award staff met with Anti-Bullying Ambassadors (ABAs) and staff from Barking Abbey to learn about the work they have been doing throughout the year and the impact on the wider community. We spoke to the students about their anti-bullying projects, the impact the programme has had on them and their peers, and their growing passion to make a difference to the world around them. Through our discussion, we found that the Ambassadors have become more confident as they discover new strengths and are continuously applying their learnings to other areas of their school lives. The ABAP is encouraging the young people to become kinder individuals, developing greater empathy for each person they interact with.

Taking on the Ambassador role 

Due to the popularity of the ABAP at Barking Abbey, students who would like to be Ambassadors apply for the opportunity. The Staff lead ensures that students who are selected are well suited for the role, passionate about it, are representative of their peer group and understand the importance. This has enabled the Ambassadors to have a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and skillsets. Ambassadors understand one another’s strengths and weaknesses and support each other. The Staff lead described the group as one that celebrates difference and values all contributions:

There are no barriers with the children... so when you see the students here, whatever they have or whatever disability, it is all accepted. - School Staff
The students are all quite respectful of each other as well. The less confident become more confident. The more confident come down just that little bit because they don’t want anyone to be overshadowed. They all want to be equal. – School Staff

Ambassadors running Anti-bullying workshops
Ambassadors running Anti-bullying workshops

Peer-to-Peer Approach

To spread the word about anti-bullying with the wider school, Ambassadors created and delivered workshops with younger year groups that teach them how to identify the types of bullying behaviour. The workshops include bullying scenarios to encourage participants to engage critically in discussions:

There can be cases where people are getting bullied, but they may think it's just jokes or banter. And then it's actually really serious and it's impacting their mental health, but perpetrators don't realise it's impacting their mental health. – Ambassador
For me, [the ABAP] came with recognising bullying outside of school better, especially online. It can be masked as humour. But a lot of the time they can genuinely hurt people. – Ambassador

The Ambassadors shared that the workshops provided their peers with a clearer understanding of different types of bullying behaviour. Ambassadors enjoyed stepping out of their comfort zone to deliver assemblies and speeches in front of parents and fellow students to raise awareness of the effects of bullying behaviour.

Ambassadors running Anti-bullying workshops
Ambassadors running Anti-bullying workshops

Mental Health

A key focus area for the Ambassadors at Barking Abbey has been improving awareness of mental health. They are currently planning an event for Year 9s in collaboration with Year 12s to help with the transition to GCSEs and give them a space to process the different changes that will soon be coming their way. They believe this event will ‘give them the breather they deserve.’ Actions of this nature highlight that the Ambassadors are normalising taboo topics for their peers:

Having poor mental health and struggling with your mental health isn't something you should be ashamed of, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed if you have anxiety or [poor] mental health. You should seek help because you shouldn't suffer in silence. - Ambassador

Reporting Bullying Incidents 

Barking Abbey School introduced the ‘Imabi Inspire’ app which allows students to report cases of bullying behaviour anonymously. Ambassadors created a video to promote the app and encourage their peers to use it to report bullying incidents. Many Ambassadors shared that the app has helped students feel more confident to talk to the Ambassadors about their issues:

Ever since the Imabi app has been introduced, people are more open to speak about what they're going through, rather than bottling all up and keeping it inside. Ambassador
Ever since we did the Imabi video, more reports have been coming in. It's a bad thing that bullying is happening, but it's also a good thing because people feel more open to talk about it, and they know that it's not just going to get ignored, it's going to get dealt with. – Ambassador

Ambassadors attending Anti-bullying training
Ambassadors attending Anti-bullying training

Building Confidence, Skills & Knowledge 

Through talking to the Ambassadors, it is evident that involvement in the ABAP has had a developmental effect on them as individuals. Improvement in self-confidence was a common feature amongst the whole group; having planned and delivered assemblies, workshops and speeches to raise awareness of bullying behaviour in school, they see a change in themselves socially:

When we were in Year 8, there was an open evening and a few of us did speeches for the new Year 7s and we talked to them about our experiences as Year 7s who just came in and how we dealt with it. That was my first time speaking in front of a bunch of parents and people that I didn't know. So being an Anti-Bullying Ambassador really helped me with my confidence. – Ambassador
I feel more confident since I became an Anti- Bullying Ambassador. I was always shy to speak and being an ABA made me feel happy and also made me talk. It’s helped me open up to people and socialise with them which is helping me understand myself. – Ambassador

Part of this self-confidence improvement is through a culture shift towards creating a school which is more kind and inclusive, with students seeing what ABAs are doing in the school and recognising the potential for development in themselves:

I joined as an Ambassador because the Ambassador team seemed really welcoming, along with all the assemblies and outside-of-school things that were going on. It made me feel like it was a more welcoming community at the time. I thought it would give me more confidence, especially being new to the school, and it would really help me and that's why I joined. – Ambassador

In addition to self-confidence, the programme is also helping increase the emotional intelligence of the Ambassadors by empowering them to recognise and express their feelings better:

[The ABAP] makes me feel brave because it's making me feel more like myself. It's making me not look down upon myself. So, it's made me feel optimistic and I want to see what lies ahead and not go back to the past. – Ambassador
The programme has given me new knowledge and information about all these mental health issues and also given me more vocabulary. So I’m better at expressing my feelings and saying what exactly what I want to say. - Ambassador
In primary school, I was always angry, even when there was no reason for me to be angry. When I became an ABA, it taught me to be more patient and not jump to conclusions. - Ambassador

Wider Impact

Ambassadors were also able to identify that the programme has had a positive impact on how they interact with the world. Some described how lessons from the programme on acceptance and inclusivity have made them become more respectful, kinder, and more sensitive to needs around them:

I feel more empathy towards people outside because the programme has opened my mind up more to different types of mental health and bullying issues. Now whenever you see someone who's maybe alone, or doing something that you wouldn't imagine yourself doing you just feel empathy towards them after experiencing in school, how other people feel when they talk to you about their things. - Ambassador


At Barking Abbey School, students are awarded Head Teacher Awards under the categories of Bravery, Excellence, Self-Discipline and Teamwork. The Staff lead pointed out how two of the Ambassadors have grown massively in confidence since becoming Ambassadors and are soon to receive this award. In addition, five of the Ambassadors have received the Jack Petchey Award for skills displayed and developed within the ABAP. This prestigious award recognises young people in London and Essex for their ability to overcome challenges and push themselves out of their comfort zones, and it is fantastic to see the ABAP as a vehicle towards this personal achievement.

Impact on the School and Wider Community – Ofsted 

The ABAP has received external recognition for its impact on the whole school community. Recently, the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors’ work received a mention in Barking Abbey’s latest Ofsted report and this contributed to the school’s ‘Outstanding’ rating. During the Ofsted visit, Ambassadors had an opportunity to talk to the Inspectors about their anti-bullying work and present their learnings. The Staff lead believes the high rating is due to how much the ABAs have impacted staff and students:

The ABAs have made a big impact pastorally because their work has helped the Heads of Years. All schools have bullying but at Barking Abbey, it is dealt with swiftly due to the increased awareness throughout the Pastoral system. - School Staff

Other students in the school are increasingly aware of who the ABAs are and their purpose. As Ambassadors share their work with other students, they model Upstander behaviour. This means students find it easy to open up to the Ambassadors and receive support from them:

Awareness is spreading because we talk about our actions, meetings and what is coming up in the future in conversations with our friends. – Ambassador
I feel like going to a teacher is a lot more intimidating than going to someone in your own year or a friend, so a lot of people are opening up [to us] more. Opening up to us gives students that confidence that they needed to go and open up to teachers. – Ambassador
Having Ambassadors in the school is helping [peers] improve their self-confidence and self-esteem so that they can socialise with us and tell us if there's any problems or doubts that they have. – Ambassador

The example set by Ambassadors is being copied by other students, leading to a whole school culture that is aware of the feelings and situations of others, including understanding the effects of bullying behaviour:

I think that people have been aware of people's feelings a lot more. So far, it’s made school a more enjoyable place to be. – Ambassador
Our actions have made people realise the effects of bullying. If you look around, there are a lot of us because the more that they realise it, the more they believe they can contribute and change it. – Ambassador

Furthermore, the presence of the ABAP is also acknowledged by parents as a key part of their children’s safety at the school:

If a parent has a concern with their child, they’ll ask to speak to me or ask if it's possible for their child to speak to one of the Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, because we have a peer programme where Ambassadors talk to both perpetrators and support targets. - School Staff

Learnings for other schools

One of the reasons the ABAP has been so impactful and widespread at Barking Abbey is because of how proactive the group is throughout the year:

I think because we've literally kept going all year, we don't just do the one week in November [for Anti-bullying Week], we do Anti-bullying projects all year round which includes designing creative presentations for the Heads of Year to use. So, it's constantly mentioned, it's constantly out there. It’s always above the parapet, never forgotten. - School Staff

Additionally, the Staff lead advised that as the Programme grows within a school and becomes more popular as it has at Barking Abbey, it’s important to ‘make sure that students are ready to be committed to the role.’

Ambassadors completing their Anti-bullying workbooks
Ambassadors completing their Anti-bullying workbooks


The passion, excitement and commitment to the Anti-Bullying Programme at Barking Abbey School is admirable and it is fantastic to see the continued impact of an established ABAP in the school. The ABAs are helping people understand the concepts of bullying behaviour, how it appears and how it can affect one’s mental health, and therefore are making their school a safer and more enjoyable place. They have also extended their influence outside of the programme by getting involved in social action activities around the school and are ‘willing to offer help and give advice to teachers on different subject areas.’ At The Diana Award, we believe in the power of young people to make a difference, and it is clear that this is happening at Barking Abbey through the ABAP. We believe these Ambassadors will go on to continue being positive influences in their communities during their school life and beyond, taking their learnings and implementing them throughout their lives. As one of the Ambassadors said they will takeaway from the Programme:

Just know that a lot of people go through a lot of different things that they never ever show, they're just locked up. So that's one thing I feel like a lot of us would just take away – that we'll always show compassion. - Ambassador