Anti-bullying Week: Make a noise about bullying

Written by: Anna Feuchtwang | Published:

Anti-Bullying Week is becoming an established part of the school calendar, but the need to repeat this message year-on-year is stronger than ever, says Anna Feuchtwang

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week (November 16 to 20) is focusing on the damage that bullying causes to mental health and wellbeing – encouraging pupils and schools to #MakeANoise about bullying.

It is in part a response to research that shows bullying is a fact of life for a significant number of children and young people. Nearly a third of young people taking part in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2015 study reported they had been bullied at school in the past couple of months. Research shows that these young people suffer increased levels of depression, anxiety and self-harm.

Because bullying occurs wherever there are groups of children and young people, schools mustn’t become complacent, either thinking it is an unavoidable inevitability or that their “no tolerance” policy means that it isn’t happening.

A child caught up in bullying will often feel that they cannot tell anyone or it’ll get worse, and that increases their isolation and depression. Schools need to create environments where children can report bullying safely and emotional issues can be discussed.

It is natural to want to punish those young people who have shown bullying behaviour, but criminalising children is not the answer: addressing the underlying causes of why children bully is far more effective.

The restorative ethos is being championed by Restorative Thinking, a social enterprise working with schools. It believes that the restorative approach can open up schools to a culture-shift that focuses on positive relationships and collaborative teaching and learning, with classrooms developing as communities. It means that teachers and pupils commit to looking at positive alternatives to reactive punitive behaviour solutions (e.g. exclusions), because they are confident that the matter is being dealt with in a clear and explicit way, understood and endorsed by all.

The organisation is currently working with a cluster of schools in the Liverpool area and early feedback hints at the kind of progress that can be made. One headteacher using the method is encouraging pupils to reflect on and record their day, noting positive and negative behaviour and the impact this has.

Anti-Bullying Week gives schools the chance to review and refresh their anti-bullying approach. For a start, teachers can use the following tips and evaluate their own practice:

  • Children need to be supported to speak out if they or someone they know is being bullied. If a child tells you they are being bullied, take what they say seriously and ask them what they want to happen. Tell them about ChildLine (0800 1111).
  • The only way to stop bullying is to acknowledge that it happens and create a “talking culture” in your school where any hurtful behaviour is brought out in the open, discussed and dealt with.
  • It is rarely one-on-one, so take time to find out who else is involved and how other pupils can support the person on the receiving end.
  • Make sure your Anti-Bullying Policy is up-to date, freely accessible and regularly promoted – and that it makes clear how you will respond to bullying.
  • Challenge all forms of offensive or discriminatory language (homophobic, transphobic, sexist/sexual, racist/faith-targeted, and disablist).
  • Take time to talk to pupils, asking whether there are any bullying hotspots and if there is anything you could do differently.
  • Coming down hard on bullying doesn’t always mean coming down hard on those that bully.
  • Anna Feuchtwang is chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau. Visit www.ncb.org.uk

Further information

Lesson/assembly plans are available from www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk. On Twitter, see #MakeANoise #AntiBullyingWeek and @ABAonline


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