The destructive, pernicious nature of bullying is felt, to a greater or lesser extent, in all of our schools and institutions. Despite some headteachers (thankfully few and far between now) saying that bullying does not exist in their schools, it’s a feature of humanity yet to be eradicated.
There is still debate about the fundamental causes of bullying. Whether it’s verbal or physical bullying, social exclusion, cyberbullying, homophobic or transphobic bullying, racial bullying, faith and religious bullying, extortion, or any other kind, the motivations behind such actions seem many and varied.
Ditch the Label’s latest annual anti-bullying survey found that 50% of young people have been bullied in the past year. Of those who were bullied, 19% suffered this abuse every day. Twice as many boys as girls bully (66% of males as opposed to 31% of females), and a staggering 20% of all young people have physically attacked someone. Tragically, 44% of young people who have experienced bullying suffer from depression. It’s not a pretty picture, with young people battling anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and even suicidal thoughts among other impacts. All of the evidence points to the fact that bullying is one of the biggest challenges that young people face right now. It affects ambitions, optimism, self-esteem, school work… it’s an utterly destructive force.
The most important point to consider with regard to bullying is that all sides suffer; the victim at the hands of his or her bully, and the bully who evidently has reasons (Ditch The Label suggests these might include bereavement or changes in family circumstance) for resorting to such negative behaviour. Solutions therefore need to support all involved. Some food for thought:
– First things first, what do you know about bullying in your school? What do you know about what children feel about bullying in your school?
– Research suggests that children and young people would like to see more discussion and debate about bullying in lessons. Talking about and sharing ideas and strategies openly for combatting bullying could have a positive impact in your school.
– Tackle the problem of bullying head on with guest speakers.
– Consider that when bullying occurs, both victim and perpetrator need support. Compassion all round is essential.
– Place education on bullying high on your school’s CPD agenda. Although teachers are often the first port of call for bullied children, not all receive the response they need. This is, of course, entirely understandable, given the pressures on teachers, but focused CPD and a high profile for dealing with bullying in your school can only help.
– Ensure that all staff are crystal clear on the warning signs that a child may give if they are being bullied. For example, mood changes or low mood, being socially isolated, changes in food intake and so on.
– Consider how effective your school’s anti bullying policy is.
– Extend concern for bullying to staff too. Workplace bullying still seems to be shockingly prevalent so any commitment to eradicating bullying needs to cover adults in your school too.