Preventing bullying in schools

Preventing bullying in schools

Anti-bullying week in the UK is a time for celebrating all the good work that schools and other organisations are doing to help support children and young people to deal with bullying and empower them to be confident and resilient. Sadly, we can never completely eradicate bullying but what we can do is teach children to value themselves, to understand that they are not the cause of why someone bullies them and to seek help when confronted with negative behaviour.

Carole (centre) delivering an anti-bullying workshop at a primary school in WalesDownload image
"Continuity across primary and high schools is key in ensuring that anti-bullying strategies and prevention programs are successful." - Carole Phillips, Fellow

My Fellowship in 2014 allowed me to research the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) in four states in the USA, and witness first-hand how a successful bullying prevention programme led to a reduction in bullying in American schools. The thread that enabled the success of the OBPP was the continuity of the programme from elementary school to high school and the universal use of terminology that was understood by educators and children alike. There was also community collaboration where the local shop keepers, bus drivers, and those in places that children frequented were trained in the OBPP, which meant that children were supported and protected when faced with incidents of bullying wherever they were.

The success of the OBPP in the USA renewed my desire to implement changes in the school that I worked in when I returned and, over a matter of time, changes were made to our school reporting mechanism. This involved anonymous reporting systems, via dedicated email address and a post box discreetly placed in a library where children could post concerns and incidents. A new anti-bullying platform called Community, Happiness, Safety was created and launched across the school and received a runner up award in the Police Community Awards, out of 400 schools across the UK. It was also an honour to be asked to speak in the House of Commons about my Fellowship, which led to my being invited to join the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bullying.

My role at present is as a Regional Manager for an anti-bullying charity, Kidscape. This has allowed me to continue working with children in schools and delivering ZAP - which teaches children skills to deal with negative behaviour, to be resilient and assertive, to help each other and be supportive, and to change the culture from a young age, so that bullying is not a rite of passage. The ZAP workshops empower children to speak out about bullying and help others who find standing up for themselves difficult.

Carole (centre) at a primary school in WalesDownload image

As a criminologist, my interest is in the behaviour of the bully or perpetrator, as the behaviour is an indication that something is going on for them too. Understanding this helps to inform us on how we can deal with this better and change the narrative around why children bully. Wales, where I live, has led the way in the UK in dealing with bullying in schools, as its policy against bullying - Rights, Respect, Equality - was made compulsory in primary and secondary schools by the Welsh Government in 2019. I was fortunate enough to be part of the consultation team that worked on the policy. I now have the pleasure of working alongside Lauren Seagar-Smith, CEO of Kidscape, in delivering Rights, Respect, Equality webinars on behalf of the Welsh Government, to school governors to support them in implementing the policy into schools, as well as anti-bullying training for governors.

Every aspect of the work I do with Kidscape is informed by what I learned in the USA and the good practice that I witnessed in schools, correctional facilities and maximum-security prison that adopted the OBPP there. A lesson learned is that continuity across primary and high schools is key in ensuring that anti-bullying strategies and prevention programs are successful. The transitional stages for children are crucial in developing a consistent message of what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. In the UK, schools in the same area are often not aware of what neighbouring schools are delivering, so communication and transparency, as well as working closely with parents, are paramount in driving home the message that collaborative working will deliver the best results.

In an ideal world, we would not have to deal with bullying. But the fact is - it exists, in the most extreme ways, and as educators, parents or friends, we must all play our part in instilling in children that they are worthy and can deal with it with the support of trusted adults. Anti-bullying week in the UK is celebrated during the week of 15-19 November and allows schools to showcase the good work and practice they are doing to help children and young people deal with bullying. It serves to remind us that we still have a long way to go, but also to celebrate how far we have come.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.

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