Anti-Bullying Week 2019 is coming up next month, taking place across 11-15th November. As a campaign that has run within most UK schools since 2004, it aims to raise awareness of bullying of children and young people and highlight long-term prevention. This year’s theme is ‘Change Starts With Us’, with the message that changes, no matter how small, can challenge bullying and form a collective responsibility in putting a stop to it.
With this year’s anti-bullying campaign message in mind, we’re taking a look at how you can review your existing policies and work to create more positive and meaningful anti-bullying messages at a school-wide level.
Reviewing your school’s anti-bullying policy
UK state schools are required by law to have anti-bullying policies in place, but the responsibility for the contents of such policies come down to your individual school.
It’s important to regard this policy as a live document. Bullying culture can come and go as a result of many variables such as relationships or cultural trends and, as society evolves, develop to encompass new methods and platforms.
Consulting with students, staff and parents
Whether it will be your responsibility to draft a revised anti-bullying policy or be delegated to a colleague, the underpinning principle of this document should be that it reflects a consultative and inclusive approach.
School staff of all levels, from administrative and support to academic and leadership, students, parents and governors should be consulted on school or community-wide anti-bullying issues, concerns and needs to address and prevent bullying.
Ahead of holding consultations, consider your inclusion of:
- Race and ethnicity
- Genders and sexuality
- Religion and beliefs
How to engage students and staff in anti-bullying action
The groundwork for working towards a new anti-bullying policy should not be underestimated and may need to come in several stages, but the important thing is in all stakeholders being aware of what they are working towards and acknowledging that it is a learning process.
You can start to engage your students in meaningful discussion and consultation around bullying prevention in small ways. By making such discussions a regular and normal occurrence within your school, introducing new ideas and activities will feel less unfamiliar and hopefully receive better interaction. It might be that you begin winding messaging around bullying and support into school assemblies, whether with one year group or your whole school. Consider how your use of storytelling, visual presentation or even dialogue to deliver a compelling message and give your students information to reflect on.
If you are a tutor with responsibility for a group of students, you could consider introducing a weekly space for discussion, with the main rule centred on respecting each other’s views. Conduct some research ahead of your sessions to find a topic, scenario or question for each week’s focus – these can be light-hearted; the point of the exercise is to facilitate discussion, questions and listening. You could use the method of holding a particular item to be a speaker or throwing and catching something for spontaneous interaction without the need for overthinking.
For staff or leaders with responsibility for peer mentor or prefect initiatives, or overseeing student council meetings, you might find good opportunities for encouraging peer to peer support or even want to help create a new initiative for students to sign up to receive training. Peer mentor training can help young people develop skills for understanding, supporting and resolving difficult issues such as conflict, and learn how to better respond to peers in need.
At a staff level, consistency should be a key factor in shaping an approach to bullying prevention, so all staff should have a basic understanding of identifying and responding to bullying. But as we have commented on before, we know all too well that funding cuts can result in a lack of dedicated training or teachers spending less time able to interact with and support students who may be facing bullying at school.
Similarly to some of the ideas listed above for students, holding workshops and sessions with your colleagues as a starting point can be a useful way for gathering a broad understanding of different viewpoints, needs and perceptions; the outcomes of which can be considered for rolling out such activities with students and helping colleagues understand what is expected of them.
If outsourced training is not currently an option within your school, consider how engaging with community stakeholders such as local charities, children’s and social services or the local police could help. It might be that you can organise speakers, talks or short sessions for staff training days or to take an allotted form group or assembly session to support and educate staff at the same time as students.
Communicating your anti-bullying message
Once you feel you’ve taken positive steps in crafting more positive messaging and support systems within your school, the most important step is to ensure you continue to communicate regularly and work on continual improvement within your own initiatives.
Research has found that one-off interventions have little effect in preventing bullying behaviour, which means that, whilst awareness weeks are valuable opportunities in awareness raising, more has to be done across schools as a whole to make meaningful change happen.
Join the discussion. Tell us about anti-bullying activities and initiatives within your school. If you’d be happy for us to share your thoughts, you can drop us a comment within the Have Your Say area of The Hub or engage with us on Facebook and Twitter.