Raising awareness of bullying at all ages

Nov. 16, 2015
Jo Donnellan

Johanna Donnellan

Interim Headteacher, Beachview School

Anti Bullying Week takes place in November and there is no place more important than schools to recognise this. While bullying can be a sensitive and complex issue, there are resources available to support pupils at every level.

Here are four resources I’ve found that help school staff make sure that schools are safe places for students.

1. Embedding an anti bullying culture - The Diana Award

To embed an anti bullying culture throughout a school, I think The Diana Award can be very powerful. The Anti Bullying Ambassadors programme, which aims to encourage, empower and engage young people to tackle bullying, now operates in 600 schools. Schools that have subscribed to the programme have seen improvements in attendance, attainment and behaviour.

2. For secondary pupils - Jodi Picoult's novel, 'Nineteen Minutes'

For secondary pupils, I suggest Jodi Picoult’s powerful novel, Nineteen Minutes. This is the story of a high school student who snaps after a lifetime of relentless bullying, leading to disastrous consequences. Its anti bullying message is so powerful that the book is taught as part of the curriculum in many schools in the US. I often encourage my students to read and reflect on it and have ensured that there are copies in the school library.

3. For all pupils - age-appropriate literature via the Ofsted website

Obviously, Nineteen Minutes is not suitable for primary school pupils. However, one resource I found that would be useful was on the Ofsted website. One case study of The Jenny Hammond School in London illustrates that when they wanted to promote diversity and improve tolerance (all linked in with work on British values) and did so through this age-appropriate literature found on the site.


4. For primary pupils – Dr Laura Warren’s ‘Let’s Get Smart’ approach

Another excellent resource for primary schools is Dr Laura Warren’s ‘Let’s Get Smart’ approach to behaviour. Piloted in Buckinghamshire, it is now spreading to schools in other regions as a result of the Government’s £3.5 million investment in ‘character education’. In my experience, it is a system which sets high expectations for pupil behaviour, leading to increased self-awareness and fewer reported incidents of bullying.

Although the details will differ from school to school, broadly speaking ‘Let’s Get Smart’ operates under a token system, whereby pupils are awarded plastic discs for doing good work – but also for being considerate and honest about their failings. If they earn enough, come Friday they can cash them in for pencils, little rubber monsters or key rings.

Pupils can also ‘buy’ privileges with their tokens, such as the right to stand first in the dinner queue or use certain equipment at break time. If pupils do not earn enough tokens, they lose access to opportunities such as joining the school football team or luxuriating in the traditional Year 6 privilege of sitting on benches rather than the floor during assembly.

Headteachers particularly like the fact that the system encourages good behaviour from all pupils, rather than focusing on a challenging few!

Schools that have adopted the 'Let's Get Smart' approach have reported a decrease in incidents of bullying; headteachers believe this is a result of the intense focus on doing the little things right and the clarity it gives pupils and parents on the school's expectations of behaviour.

As school leaders, I’m sure we all acknowledge that it is unlikely we will ever stop bullying altogether in our schools. What we can do, however, is ensure that we respond to each reported incident robustly and that we do all we possibly can to make our young people reflect on the consequences of their actions.

This article originally appeared on the website of the Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019 the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.

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