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Bullying can take many forms. Children, young people and adults can instigate bullying and be bullied in schools. Bullying involves behaviour that is either physically or emotionally harmful, such as taunting, name-calling, making threats, excluding people from groups, kicking, hitting and damaging belongings, sending hurtful/offensive text messages and emails and spreading hurtful and untruthful rumours.
Individuals will have different experiences of bullying; however there are some common factors so that bullying can be understood to be:
• repetitive, wilful or persistent
• intentionally harmful, carried out by an individual or a group
• an imbalance of power leaving the victim feeling defenceless.
It is harmful to all involved: not just the person who is bullied, but also to those who bully and those who stand by. It can lead to a lack of confidence, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, physical harm, self-harm and sometimes suicide.
According to one recent study, one-fifth of primary school pupils and a quarter of pupils in Year 8 perceived bullying as a ‘big problem’ in their school. An NSPCC study found that school bullying is one of the most common forms of harmful aggression experienced by children and young people in the UK.
Some children and young people are especially vulnerable to bullying, such as those who are physically or learning disabled, young people who experience abuse or neglect, gay and lesbian young people, children from minority ethnic communities, and those growing up in care. Others perceived to be different may also be picked on, for instance, in terms of their size, shape, or because they wear glasses. Some children and young people are bullied for no apparent reason and may be bullied by former friends. Sometimes the person who is bullied also bullies others. A report by ChildLine shows that 15 per cent of primary school children and 12 per cent of secondary school children said they had bullied and been bullied in the last year (ChildLine
2004). In another study, 50 per cent of severely bullied boys said that they bully others, as did 33 per cent of severely bullied girls.
Why bullying should concern schools – a legal duty
Effective anti-bullying strategies will help pupils to realise their academic potential and will contribute to the creation of a happy, healthy and safe school. A bullying culture can have a negative effect on pupils’ learning and emotional well-being, as well as the reputation of the school. The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 states that schools must encourage respect for others and, in particular, prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. In summary, the legislation places a duty on the headteacher to have and enforce an anti-bullying policy. Government guidance additionally states that the policy is reviewed annually and that every member of the school community (including children, young people, carers and parents) should be involved in this review.
Developing a whole-school approach
This involves the whole school community – pupils, teachers, learning mentors, school support staff, governors, parents and carers. It is based on developing a framework or policy that promotes shared values, beliefs and attitudes that inhibit bullying and gives guidance on how to manage and record bullying incidents. The importance of everyone being involved and owning the policy is underlined by research, which found that many pupils were unaware that their school had an anti-bullying policy.
The DfES recommends establishing a whole-school approach policy in four stages: awareness and consultation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The policy should aim to:
Supporting children who have been bullied:
A key way of supporting children who are being bullied is to establish good links between schools and counselling organisations.
Help and support
For further advice on this issue, ATL members can speak to their school rep, their branch secretary or their regional official. They can also call the London (020 7930 6441), Cardiff (029 2046 5000) or Belfast office (02890 327 990) or email email@example.com.
For out of hours enquiries, call the out of office hours helpline on 020 7782 1612 (Monday-Friday, 5-8pm during term time).
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