Bullying is an issue that affects everyone in every school to some degree. Even if your school is lucky enough to be one of the very rare schools that does not see outbreaks of bullying within the establishment, it may well still be affecting your pupils through other interactions outside of the school gates. For example, racist threats daubed onto a wall on the route home, or having one's Facebook and email accounts breached in cyber-bullying attacks. Perhaps a pupil's parent is being bullied at work and this is creating a turbulent home environment.
Naturally a school cannot be expected to directly address issues such as these, but they do serve to illustrate the point that bullying really can affect anyone in any place at any time – often with unpredictable roots or consequences.
Every bullying incident is different in its motivation, manifestation, its repercussions and more. This can make bullying a very grey area that is difficult to resolve effectively. As always though, a clear and thorough understanding of the problem makes it easier to address. Below we have outlined what we hope would be a minimal level of understanding for everyone in the school.
What is bullying?
There is no legal definition of bullying but it is usually repeated behaviour designed to physically or emotionally hurt, often targeting particular groups Eg. Sexual orientation, religion, race or gender. Your school should have its own definition of bullying.
Examples of bullying
Physical bullying can manifest as pushing, shoving, tripping, throwing objects and so on. Mental bullying could be planned ignoring, inappropriate jokes, etc. Cyber bullying can be threats made through electrical devices or misuse of information obtained through impersonating logins (hacking). Sadly, the list of bullying behaviours and tactics change often and need constant review.
What are the effects?
The effects of bullying may be wide and varied. Victims often report poor concentration, decreased attendance, uncharacteristic (often negative) behaviour, eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse and others.
What can victims do?
Clarify the points of contact where help can be obtained, when they may be used and how to use them. Most children will be scared, so regular reminders of these services are important.
What can witnesses do?
Explain the services that are available to parents and students who witness their friends or even strangers being bullied. You may wish to re-emphasise that acts of vigilantism will not be tolerated.
When delivering your anti-bullying policy always ensure that the content is relevant to the audience. The contents of your policy must be clearly understood by all pupils, parents, teaching staff, support staff and everyone involved in the school environment. Many schools have found improved success from having different versions of documentation available in pupil-friendly or parent-friendly terms.
For more information on all aspects of bullying, please visit www.bully-watch.co.uk.
Making the environment bully-proof
Pupils will typically spend around 40 hours either at school or in transit between school and home. This is around half of their waking, working week. Naturally it is paramount that this time is spent in an environment that’s safe from harm or fear. There are several simple checks that can be made on the school building to make it more “bully-proof”.
A good place to begin is to build up a bullying blind spot map. Obtain a plan or map of the school and grounds, and take a walk around all the school buildings and grounds. It is probably wise to break the school into zones that can be comfortably examined in one session. You are looking for "blind spots" within the school grounds that are outside of normal easy viewing. These are areas that could potentially be used for physical bullying.
These could be secluded corners of a playground, behind large bushes, beyond any outbuildings or in areas that are in full view but rarely used. You may also wish to review your incident logs and pay attention to the locations that frequently occur – are there any patterns occurring?
Building this map can also involve pupils. Skills that cross-reference with geography, maths and citizenship can be honed by asking students to conduct a survey to see if there are any other areas in which pupils may feel unsafe or threatened. Mapping and graphing skills could be developed by asking pupils to report the results of these surveys regularly.
When potential hotspots have been discovered you need to take action to lower the risk. For example, foliage can often be cut back or improved with containment fencing. Secluded areas are less daunting when visible via viewing mirrors or CCTV. Posters can make areas more bright and cheerful.
Ensure that everyone is aware of the potential risk areas. Ask your prefects or break time staff to keep an eye on such places. Importantly, don’t forget to remind bullying victims that a key life skill is to avoid risky locations where possible, so being aware of these hotspots is a benefit that aids them in avoiding confrontation.
Increasing the presence or visibility of authority figures is very often a useful technique in reducing bullying. Define a rota to ensure that a member of staff is present at the school gates at start and end of school. Between lessons, consider asking staff to stand outside classrooms in the corridors to keep an eye on all the pupils as they move between lessons.
If it’s feasible to do so, then consider providing a highly staffed indoor area that pupils can treat as a safe haven during their break times if they so wish. It is not fair to ask bullying victims to be contained but many would prefer to take their breaks in such an area with trusted company.
Keep your pupils and parents aware of the anti-bullying initiatives you are conducting. If your pupils feel that, as a school, you are always trying new things to keep them safe then a trust will develop and the school can become a haven to bullying victims rather than a place of fear.
For more advice on making your environment bully-proof, please visit www.bully-watch.co.uk.
Send a message to your pupils
Effective two-way communication is essential to reducing bullying in your school. Firstly it’s imperative that you inform and remind pupils of your anti-bullying policy – it’s expectations, how it works and so on. And naturally, you need young people to tell you if they are having a problem. Let’s take a look at effective ways for you to get your message across – here are some ideas to consider:
- Anti-bullying information to be distributed annually to families
- Pupils could be involved in the making of anti-bullying promotional material e.g. calendars, magnets
- Pastoral care / mentoring “drop-in” sessions to discuss anti-bullying matters
- Additional training for form tutors to recognise and talk about bullying
- Social skills and conflict resolution are taught through lessons
- Strategies for dealing with bullying are taught formally and informally
- Signage around school / classrooms to lift focus
- Newsletter inserts
- Placement in Behaviour Management Group
- Use of school counsellor and external agency services or staff
- Press releases about anti-bullying events being organised by the school
- Publication on the school VLE
- Regular reminders of reporting options, relevant staff, anti-bullying events and so on
This is a fairly exhaustive list of methods that can be used to tell pupils and their parents about the measures taken to prevent bullying, the support offered, and the path to resolution that can be facilitated by the school. Now let’s consider how your school can be receptive to reports of bullying.
- Periodic surveys of students, staff, parent/caregivers
- Adequate time-off provided for young people to seek assistance from tutors, mentors, etc. Pupils should be reminded that form time can be used to seek guidance in personal matters.
- All school staff trained in spotting tell-tale signs of bullying such as behavioural changes, isolation and so on
- Post boxes for bullying slips – these can be made or bought relatively cheaply. Don’t forget you will need enough to make them accessible to pupils all around the school and that the contents need to be read and reacted to on a daily basis.
- Prefect training courses are available for around the same price as staff inset days and some pupils will more talk more easily with peer-counselling
- Provide a ready supply of anti-bullying report forms that are accessible by parents and pupils
- Consider subscribing to an SMS-based reporting service whereby pupils can use their smartphone to text the school details of any problems
There are of course some anti-bullying packages available which encompass many of these strategies and more. For example, Bully-Watch is a system that allows pupils to report bullying via the internet or their smartphone. Not only does Bully-Watch give the school a suite of tools to address the problems but also all the resources and materials required to deliver the system to pupils and parents alike, from posters to contact cards and letters home to parents.
Remember that everything your school does to fight against bullying is helping to make life better for young people – be proud of what you’re doing and make sure you get the message across to everyone!
Form an anti-bullying group
If you do not already have a pupils' anti-bullying group within your school, then this is something you could consider. This is not a difficult task and the results can be quite exemplary. Let's look at some of the things we need to consider.
Why do we need an anti bullying group?
Firstly, the group will represent the voice of the bullying victims – it will be a channel for their thoughts and concerns. Not only will your group work to improve the school's overall effectiveness in combating bullying, but involvement will also aid development of social, academic and life-skills for the individual members.
Who will be in the group?
You will need to decide if membership of the group will be voluntary, or by peer/teacher nomination. Depending on the size of your school you may wish to elect one, two or three boys and girls from each year group. The group may wish to invite adults such as your community liason officer, a member of senior school staff or a PTA member. At the very least we would expect you to ask your anti-bullying coordinator to be present at the group's meetings. We would recommend reviewing membership on an annual basis.
Within the group itself we would suggest nominating the officers such as Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer.
What will they do?
Your group will attend group meetings and be responsible for addressing the anti-bullying needs of the school. You will need to arrange a timetable of meetings so that the members can get together to make their plans. Perhaps the first Thursday of each new term could be the scheduled meeting arrangement. These meetings will be to make arrangements for the ongoing business of the group.
Below is the overview of one school's meetings during their first year when they have the goal of buying an extra cctv camera for a new outdoor area. This gives an example of what your group could achieve.
Meeting 1 – Jan 2013
- Election of officers
- New business (Eg. Press release about the group, action plan, etc)
- Fund-raising plans (non-uniform day during anti-bullying week? Stall at school fete? Donations? Grant from school funds?)
Meeting 2 – April 2013
- Minutes of last meeting
- Progress reports (Requirements for stall at fete)
- New business (Survey to get ideas for next years campaign)
- Financial summary (quotations received for extra cctv cameras)
Meeting 3 – Sep 2013
- Minutes of last meeting
- Progress reports (profits made at summer fete)
- New business
- Financial summary (situation after buying cctv camera)
We hope that these ideas are enough to make you consider forming an anti-bullying group. It’s a great way to raise everyone's awareness of bullying and to get your school some attention in the local press. Bully-Watch has more stories and ideas from other anti-bullying groups on its website – please take a look and don’t forget to tell us about what you’ve got planned.
Assigning an anti-bullying co-ordinator
Although some schools may already have their own anti-bullying coordinator, a lot don't, and rely on a shared service provided by their authority. Whilst enlisting the help of an external coordinator is admirable many schools will see increased benefits from engaging a dedicated member of staff for their establishment. Let’s look at how assigning this important role to a member of staff could help you.
Responsibilities of anti bullying coordinator
The key responsibilities of the role are:
- Anti-Bullying Policy creation, review and on-going development. This will involve all pupils, all staff, parents/carers, governors and relevant local authorities
- Implementation of the policy. This will include scheduled assessments and monitoring of its effectiveness and the progress being made
- Ensuring evaluation of every procedure takes place and that this informs policy reviewers. Document all reviews in procedures, documentation, etc
- Managing bullying incidents policy, such as intervention, reporting, repercussions, recording, de-briefing etc
- Assessing and coordinating training and support for staff and parents/carers where appropriate
- Coordinate and manage the schools own anti bullying team, as discussed in a previous tip
- Research, evaluate and appraise strategies for preventing bullying behaviour
Justifying the position of anti-bullying coordinator
The Childrens Act 2004 – Places a statutory duty on Children Services Authorities to work in partnership with stakeholders and partner agencies to deliver integrated services and improve preventive and early intervention services for children and their families.
Children and Young People’s Plan (2008 – 2011) – Staying Safe Priority SS8 children who have experienced bullying (NI69) Page 56.
Every Child Matters – This makes very specific reference within two of the five outcomes to bullying, namely:
- Staying Safe: Children and young people are safe from bullying and discrimination
- Making a positive contribution: Children and young people develop positive relationships and choose not to bully or discriminate
However, bullying impacts on the other three areas too:
- Being healthy: Affecting the emotional mental wellbeing of children and young people and developing resilience
- Enjoying and achieving: Not attending school or becoming disaffected learners as a result of being bullied
- Economic wellbeing: Failure to complete the education impact on future prosperity and employment and can lead to subsequent mental health issues in adulthood
Recent school survey:
- 65% of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) pupils have experienced direct bullying
- 75% of young LGBT attending faith schools have experienced bullying
National Ofsted survey Yr 6, 8, 10 (2008):
- 39% of young people had experienced bullying at school and only 11% said bullying was not a problem in their school
- Over 25% said that bullying was a significant worry for them, and one in nine felt unsafe in school or going to or from school
Risks to not appointing for this position
The impact of bullying on young people is significant and needs to be tackled effectively throughout your establishment. Hence, there are some risks that need to be considered in not appointing an anti-bullying coordinator.
- Lack of recognition of the impact of bullying in schools - this will be raised by Ofsted as part of the safeguarding element of provision in schools
- Failure to meet your statutory responsibilities under the Children Act 2004 to safeguard the welfare of children and young people set out within the Every Child Matters five outcomes framework
Ideas on funding the position
Bully-Watch provides a complete package to simplify and speed the job of your anti-bullying coordinator. This could lead to a significant reduction in salary and admin-time costs.
Recently the government has announced that the total available through the Pupil Premium is rising from £625 million in 2011-12 to £1.875 billion next year, and will rise further to £2.5 billion by 2014-15. Therefore, within the current school year 2012-2013, the pupil premium will rise to £900 for every pupil on roll eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) at any time within the last 6 years. To put this in some sort of context, for a larger Secondary school with 1,500 pupils and a relatively high level of FSM eligibility of, perhaps, 35% (which is certainly not uncommon) the pupil premium will be over £470,000. Schools will have freedom to use the Pupil Premium in whatever ways they wish provided that they can demonstrate that the resources or activities for which it is used benefit disadvantaged pupils and boost their achievement levels overall.
Please feel free to contact the team at Bully-Watch to discuss any of the topics covered in these discussions and to talk about your own schools specific requirements.