During this week, schools up and down the country would have had a large focus on anti-bullying as, unless you live under a stone, everyone knows it has been ‘anti-bullying’ week this week. Children will have had lessons, assemblies, competitions etc to help to raise the profile of bullying and the kids dutifully come up with all of the answers but it got me thinking. How can a school keep this up all year long? If this could be addressed (and in lots of schools I am sure it is), then surely schools would become more proactive about tackling bullying rather than being reactive.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Dan Nixon and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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This week I was lucky enough to host #behaviourchat on Twitter, which was started and is usually run by Tracey Lawrence (@BehaviourTeach) on a Monday evening, 8pm-8.30pm and this week’s focus was anti-bullying. There were loads of participants with excellent ideas which could be categorised into reactive and proactive responses. The amount of ideas shared in that tiny 30-minute slot was inspirational.
So, a few thoughts on how schools might help to both proactively and reactively tackle bullying in schools.
Regular Assemblies – led by different people
There are tons of resources on assembly ideas about bullying. There are books to buy, moral stories, videos, real-life experience – the list is endless. I quite like using resources that the children can relate to in a removed way rather than the usual ‘Child A is doing xyz to child B. What should child B do?’ kind of thing. For my whole school assembly this week, I used a Pixar video called ‘For the Birds‘ which was only a few minutes long and it had no words.
The assembly was a huge hit, the kids loved the video and their responses, when given a little time to think, were excellent and they really started to connect. Anyone could have done this assembly at any point of the year. Why can’t this style of assembly be done once a month to keep things ticking over?
Challenge bullying – every time
When asked, most children know the difference between bullying and one-off incidents. In some schools I have worked in, and being a visitor of, I have seen lots of evidence where teachers or adults in schools do not treat it in this way. If a child follows what the school have said by telling an adult, the adults must take it seriously every time! If not, the only thing that will happen is that the kids stop telling the adults. Years down the line, when the issue becomes huge and the child professes that this has been going on for years, they are then challenged with staff asking why they haven’t told anyone before now so that they can deal with it? Ludicrous!
Staff should really consider whether or not they themselves would put up with it or even accept it if it was one of their children? Telling a child to ignore it or try and get on with it just doesn’t cut the mustard.
All staff should be consistent, insistent and persistent in their approach
Everyone who works in a school, and I mean everyone, should know what they must do as soon as they encounter someone who is bullying or being bullied. If children know there are only a few members of staff in the school who will take them seriously, then what do these kids do when those members of staff leave/ go on secondments/sick etc? Schools need to build a culture whereby bullying is high on the agenda and one where the children know that the staff are vigilant in this area. As soon as the kids think that Mrs A will deal with bullying quicker and more effectively than Mr B, the school are immediately not in the best positions. If schools have someone who deals with issues like this excellently, their practice should be picked apart and used in a way to develop other members of staff.
Speak honestly with parents
There is no point in sugar coating the issue. Be honest and tell parents, both of the victim and the assailant, with the facts. Parents may find it difficult to accept that they are being told that their child has been bullying someone else. They may rant or get upset but bringing it back to the children is important. Offer to them that your support is in the best interests of both children. You are trying to make sure that the child who is being bullied can be safe and feel safe at school but also that you are trying to support their child, by helping them to modify their behaviour as this behaviour will not help them to be successful and happy in life. If you are honest, parents can be angry at the facts and not angry with you.
Make bullying not cool with the kids
My assembly this week didn’t focus on the person who was being the bully, or even the victim, but all of the people who are there while it is happening. I asked the children to think about what a bully might look like. They said things like the biggest children, the most cool ones etc. I asked about the people who were there – the friends of the bully. What would they look like? It dawned on the children that it could be anyone. I asked any children to put their hands up if they had ever bullied anyone. A few brave hands went up. I asked the children to put their hands up if they had ever being there while someone was being bullied and a lot more hands went up. We then explored it from this angle, rather than the typical angle of bully and victim. If schools could put a focus on the children on the periphery, this is an easy thing to do. Schools should get those kids to apply the pressure to the bully – this is easier to do than it is to change the bully sometimes.
A strong PSHE curriculum which is at the heart of the school
A strong PSHE curriculum will expose the children to many issues and dilemmas, of which lots of them can be linked back to helping them to become better people. There are lots of links here to make towards treating other people better. Where I have seen strong PSHE curriculums in school, is where the whole school are focusing on the same thing, all the time and not just in isolation. On top of this, staff are taking the role outside of the classroom by doing clubs, being on the doors, in the corridors, greeting children at the starts of lessons at the door and making a concerted effort to speak to children in and around the school. This tied in with members of SLT being on lunch duties and break duties means that the atmosphere in the school will be more positive.
Anti-bullying week is great, I love it. Despite this, it is never going to have a significant impact on reducing bullying in schools if done in isolation. Schools have to do things that help shape children to become effective members of society. They need to have strong procedures in place to support children who are being bullied and to support the bullies. Punitive approaches alone against the bullies will not improve things. Children need to be taught to behave better through explicit things such as assemblies, lessons and restorative meetings as well as picking up how to behave from adults that they look up to. A head who absolutely insists that they will not allow bullying to continue in their school, and acts in this way, is imperative. If the head can do it in a consistent, insistent and persistent way and then the least that they expect is that their staff do the same. A head must challenge the staff to support the children and then challenge them even more if they do not. A school where everything that is done to support the children to become happy people, all year round, is better than simply anti-bullying week alone.