When you think of a bully, what do you see? Is it a picture of Nelson Muntz screaming “Ha Ha!” as he points in your face? Or do you see the stereotypical circling around the small, defenceless boy in the playground as everyone shouts “fight, fight”?
I’m sure there’s many a playground brawl that occur daily in the school playground, but in an ever-increasing digital era, bullying is shifting over to the internet, and the persona of bullies has shifted with that. Continue reading “Are you a bully?”→
We’ve all seen the infamous Dr. Pepper advert – The one where the young boy goes to see the school nurse, his drink spills over the intercom system, and the entire school listens to part of their conversation. As the young boy walks out of the nurse’s office, the entire school is stood outside mocking him, and the slogan “Dr. Pepper, what’s the worst that could happen?” is displayed across the screen. Continue reading “What’s the worst that could happen?”→
On the morning of Friday 24 June 2016, just hours after it had been announced that the UK had voted in favour of leaving the European Union, 60 civil servants had gathered at the Treasury to listen to an important talk.
Westminster, still stunned by the UK’s decision to change the course of history, congregated to listen to Carol Dweck – a psychologist who has become famous for her ‘growth mindset’ theory.
When Dr Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, spoke out early this year about sexist bullying in school that prevents girls participating fully in the classroom, there were several issues that she failed to touch upon.
Dr Bousted stated that girls often feel they have to decide between being attractive or clever because of sexist name calling in schools, and that there are multiple pressures on girls to be thin, attractive and compliant, making bright girls feel unfeminine. Continue reading “Sexism in schools: A misrepresented issue”→
It’s the beginning of a new school year, and while this can be an exciting time for fresh-faced new pupils, as well as returning pupils, it’s easy to admit that after six weeks of ‘freedom’, the return to school following the summer holidays isn’t exactly eagerly anticipated by all pupils (not to mention staff).
However, complaints about the return of the early morning routine and the structured daily timetable pale into insignificance with the revelation of some shocking new research showing that 45 percent of the 10 million UK pupils returning to school this week will be returning to routine, daily bullying – certainly enough to instil dread into any child.
Not only this, but the figures, from the Diana Award Charity, also showed that 24 percent of pupils admitted to suicidal thoughts as a result of the bullying, and 70 percent often look to change their appearance and self-presentation to prevent themselves from being bullied.1
The tip of the iceberg
The results are no anomaly – many people for whom primary and high school is just a distant memory still find it hard to forget their school bully. But while bullying 20 years ago is no less harmful than it is today, the new age of technology has made children increasingly vulnerable to bullying on more different platforms than ever.
Last month, the Children’s Society’s annual Good Childhood report found that UK pupils were among the most unhappy pupils at school due to bullying. The cause of pupils’ unhappiness ranging from being hit by other pupils, to feeling left out, to low self-esteem due to appearance.2
Who’s to blame?
As a result of the new Diana Award findings, schools are in the firing line for not doing enough to protect their pupils from bullying and prevent their pupils from bullying others.
“Our research shows that schools are failing to keep young people safe and happy, and that is unacceptable. For a child to feel suicidal because of the treatment they have had at school is totally unacceptable,” said Alex Holmes, head of the Diana Award anti-bullying campaign.
This echoes the sentiment of the quote from Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, following their own findings a month ago: “It is deeply worrying that children in this country are so unhappy at school compared to other countries, and it is truly shocking that thousands of children are being physically and emotionally bullied, damaging their happiness. School should be a safe haven, not a battleground.”
These are only a couple of quotes among many holding schools highly responsible for the happiness of their pupils; however, schools are battling against the new and accelerating impacts of social media, the regular media, and social pressures. Government and school assessments, celebrity culture and the boastful nature of social media can all see young children feeling like failures before they even leave primary school. Not only that, but with the rise of ‘banter’ the lines between bullying and ‘joking’ are becoming increasingly blurred, making it more difficult to identify. One teacher from Norfolk resorted to banning the word banter from the classroom because he believed his pupils were using the term to ‘legitimise bullying’.3
While the mounting statistics and news articles are disturbing, especially as they coincide with the increase of mental health issues in young people, surely there should be a more positive impact of such negative information than simply pointing the finger and prescribing the blame?4 So, what can you do to help prevent bullying?
How to beat back-to-school bullying
According to anti-bullying campaign Anti-Bullying Pro, “one of the most important things that a school needs to have to help combat bullying is an effective and anonymous way to report it.” Some ideas include anonymous email addresses or phone numbers and ‘bully boxes’: locked boxes with a slot through which pupils can post anonymous reports of bullying. Once these measures are in place, it’s important to make all students aware of them and make them feel comfortable to use these channels.
The Diana Awards, the overhead charity of Anti-Bullying Pro, run an Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme, a series of training events, which teaches pupils the skills they need to be responsible for raising awareness of bullying, leading campaigns, promoting kindness and ensuring their peers stay safe both online and offline. Having a peer-led approach to tackling bullying can help everyone feel responsible, as part of a team, for stopping bullying.
The Anti-Bullying Pro website hosts lots of helpful information about how to deal with bullying.
Here’s what Anti-Bullying Pro advise you do if a pupil approaches you about being bullied:
Reassure the pupil that you are there to help and that coming to you was the right thing to do.
Ask them to explain their situation, how they are being bullied, and how often they are being bullied, to allow you to determine whether the action constitutes bullying.
Advice to give the pupil:
Don’t retaliate to the bully, especially in a way that will get them in trouble.
Come up with a positive coping mechanism (you can help them with this), for instance, counting to ten when bullying occurs.
Remove themselves from the situation as soon as possible and go to a safe place/find someone they trust/go to an anti-bullying ambassador (if you have them) or member of staff.
Find out who the anti-bullying ambassadors/staff are in the school and acquire their help.
Ask them how you can help and what they would like you to do – give them a sense of ownership over the situation.
Report the bullying to the appropriate member of staff.
When dealing with the pupil accused of the bullying, make sure you act in accordance with your school’s Anti-Bullying Policy, and with the victim’s request.
You may also want to consider:
Weekly/daily meetings, until the situation improves.
Advising the pupil of somewhere they can go to talk to someone at any time.
Reporting the bullying to parents (depending on the severity).
Encouraging the pupil to buddy-up with a trusted pupil.
Encouraging the pupil to keep a diary/log of the bullying.
Encouraging the pupil to engage in activities they enjoy, to take their mind off it.
Involving the pupil in a lunchtime activity to keep them away from the bully and encourage them to have fun.5
Bullying can continue even after staff have intervened, so it is imperative to follow up any instances reported to you.
The key message resonating throughout professional anti-bullying advice is to make pupils aware that they are not alone, and that they can talk to you about their problems. The Anti-Bullying Alliance emphasises communication as a vital part of tackling bullying: “Never suffer in silence.”6
Following on from their research, The Children’s Society has called for the government to require schools to provide counselling for pupils, and has urged schools to help children’s wellbeing by tackling bullying and promoting physical exercise.
Also, with the approach of anti-bullying week, Anti-Bullying Pro have begun a #back2school twitter campaign to raise bullying awareness, which has seen hundreds of people sharing their school photographs and experiences of bullying to highlight and enforce that anti-bullying motto, “never suffer in silence”.
Schools and teachers are wonderful at promoting diversity; we often talk about engaging and working with our communities. We talk about every child being special, and we encourage children to be proud of who they are and where they come from. But if a child is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT), do they receive the same messages? There are children in every classroom who feel they do not fit in with the gender expectations. These children may or may not grow up to be LGBT, but regardless we need to be providing a supportive and nurturing environment for them. Every child benefits from an ethos of mutual respect and a celebration of who they are.
Therefore, ‘Educate and Celebrate’ welcomes volume 4 of Andrew Moffat’s ‘Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools’ or ‘CHIPS’ – a series of 20 books with accompanying lesson plans for reception through to year 6. The beautifully illustrated books feature stories of feeling different, feeling excluded, being treated badly, learning to respect everyone, not being scared of difference and, welcoming everyone and celebrating diversity in all its forms.
We are very proud to have Andrew as a member of our ‘Educate and Celebrate’ team, and we are currently rolling out the resource to all primary schools across the UK to achieve our ultimate goal of making all our schools LGBT-friendly.
Ofsted criteria January 2012 states ‘To achieve Outstanding,schools must tackle all forms of bullying and harassment including cyber-bullying and prejudice based bullying related to SEN, Sexual Orientation, Sex, Race, Religion, Belief, Gender reassignment and Disability.’
In addition to this, in September 2013, Ofsted released a new briefing for section 5 inspection called ‘Exploring the school’s actions to prevent and tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying’. With primary pupils, inspectors might explore whether:
Pupils ever hear anyone use the word ‘gay’ when describing a thing, or whether they have been told by teachers that using the word ‘gay’, to mean something is rubbish, is wrong, and why it is wrong.
Pupils ever get picked on by other children for not behaving like a ‘typical girl’ or a ‘typical boy’.
Pupils have had any lessons about different types of families (single parent, living with grandparents, having two mummies or two daddies).
The ‘CHIPS’ resource fulfils the new criteria and adheres to the new primary framework within ‘Language and Literacy’ and also has the versatility to be embedded within the PHSE curriculum.
In March 2013, our student and staff surveys, in partnership with the NUT and Schools OUT, revealed that a third of all students hear and use the word ‘gay’ negatively more than once a day. This is not surprising when we note that ‘sometimes’ was the top answer when students were asked if teachers challenge the negative language.
From this data, we can identify that there is a need to give teachers confidence and it is not surprising when we note that specific LGBT training is not part of our QTS. Which is why ‘Educate and Celebrate’ engages primary PGCE students in the ‘CHIPS’ training, to ensure they are equipped before they enter the classroom.
Unsurprisingly, research from The National College of Teaching and Leadership in 2010 shows that the No: 1 influence on student learning is through our classroom teaching, again strongly supporting the need to provide training and resources for our teachers. Especially when we note that 72% of those teachers said they would welcome specific training to help them better address homophobia within their own classrooms.
This new resource fulfils the needs of our teachers, students, parents and governors by giving an accessible way for our staff to teach about equality, and celebrate difference through existing national curriculum criteria.
Teachers at Birmingham primary schools who have received the ‘Educate and Celebrate CHIPS training’ say:
‘The training gave us the confidence to challenge stereotypes and the ability to discuss LGBT issues as they occur in our school.’
‘The books and imagery highlight and celebrate the diversity of family life.’
The ‘Educate and Celebrate’ teacher-training programme is available to all schools, local authorities, educational establishments and workplaces – fulfilling Ofsted criteria, government policy and underpinned by academic research. The programme empowers teachers to generate positive change within their own schools by following the ‘Educate and Celebrate’ standards. The standards not only engage our staff with an inclusive ‘CHIPS’ curriculum but advocate training, updating school policies, eradicating discriminatory language, creating inclusive display and participating in LGBT and anti-bullying events in the community.
For LGBT History Month 2014, we held ‘CHIPS’ workshops in the new Birmingham Children’s library. We focused on one of the 20 books from the resource called ‘Our House’ by Michael Rosen and Bob Graham. In the picture book, George says the cardboard house is his and no one else can play in it. But Lindy, Marly, Freddie, Charlene, Marlene, Luther, Sophie and Rasheda have other ideas!
30 students from local primary schools came to take part, some of whom were captured for ITV central news that evening which you can see in the video.
We had our ‘Sing-A-long with CHIPS’ launch on July 16th at Birmingham Children’s library. Tiverton Academy and Brownmead Primary School were the stars of the show with their compelling, fun and committed performances of songs that accompany our beautiful ‘CHIPS’ books. You can see photographs and videos of the evening here.
On 17 June, the Department for Education released new guidelines to enable schools to support and help pupils who are experiencing mental health issues.
According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, 9.8 percent of children and young people aged 5 to 16 have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder. Acute and even mild mental health problems can throw an adult off balance, and so it is unsurprising that the research concluded that “too many young people are unfairly labelled as trouble-makers when in fact they have unmet mental health problems.”
Mental health can be affected by a number of things – abuse, parents splitting up or divorcing, bullying, but even just living as part of society can cause a breakdown in mental health.
There are many points in my own childhood that I can remember having an effect on what should have been a happy time such as losing my best friend in a car accident aged 4 and being severely bullied in year six. By the time I reached high school, I was a shadow of my former self and struggling with a depression that lasted for 20 years.
Mental health problems in children have, for so long, been swept under the carpet for many reasons, but mostly because nobody wants to think about a child being anything but happy and content. Add to that the stigma of standing up and saying that you have a mental health problem, and you have a real quagmire.
So, how can we help our pupils?
Teachers often see children for longer periods than their friends, or even their parents. Having good relationships with pupils in your class or form is a great first step. If you know them, you will notice a change.
Keeping a record of behaviour infractions will enable you to see patterns, for example, does the young man in 8B behave badly after weekends spent with his father? Has the girl in year 10 suddenly started wearing long sleeves and acting out? Spotting the signs early can lead to an intervention that can make all the difference.
Promoting a positive attitude to mental health problems and having a whole-school approach to removing the stigma of mental health will create a safe-space in which pupils who are experiencing difficulties feel they can tell somebody.
Robust anti-bullying and behaviour policies show pupils that they will be taken seriously if problems arise, and coupled with a Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions Policy, parents too will see that they can come to you with concerns.
Peer-counselling and buddying can give pupils who are struggling yet another safe environment where they can talk to somebody, they might not want to talk to a teacher and might feel more comfortable discussing the problem with another pupil.
If problems escalate, or if you are struggling to make a connection with the pupil, it may be necessary to involve outside agencies. There may be issues of Special Educational Needs and/or disability which might require a SENCO. Every case is different and should be treated as such.
We have the guidance along with a 3-Minute Read summarising the DfE’s document on TheSchoolBus.