On anti-bullying policies in schools. Articles and talks.

I’m adding articles and talks to this page on the subject of bullying and anti-bullying.

Writing an effective school anti-bullying policy

How to recognise the signs of your child being bullied

When school boards become school bullies

Problems caused by teachers ignoring school bullies

The following is a transcript from a short talk given on the to the Parent Teacher Association of our school on Tuesday 11th. January, 2011. The subject was anti-bullying policies and I had requested for the subject to be placed on the agenda myself:

Preamble: Bullying affects everyone (not just the child who is targeted, or their family, or the child who bullies another, or the teachers and parents and carers who have to deal with the emotional aftermath).

I say this for a very simple reason. Leaving the emotional aftermath to one side for a moment. Dealing with the aftermath of bullying can cost a great deal of money. We’re talking about the monitoring, the meetings, the letters that need to be written, the staff time involved, and in the worst cases – the cost of litigation and court costs. So there are direct links between tackling bullying effectively and the fund-raising work that the PTA is trying to do. PTA raised x amount over the past year. A sum like this could be wiped from the school and local authority budget very easily and quickly by a serious case of bullying.

There is another constitutional link between the PTA and raising awareness of bullying and anti-bullying. Our PTA constitution emphasises the contribution we have to make towards our children’s education. Bullying gets in the way of our children’s education.

Before this talk began I asked for questions from parents, teachers and carers. One of the central questions I received was:

“Who and how do you report bullying? Who do you report it to?”

My answer – When bullying happens – from a school’s point of view there should be at least FOUR jobs to be done.

JOB ONE: Investigate the reported incident.

JOB TWO: Assist and support the targeted child and their family

JOB THREE: Assist and support the child who bullies and their family with a view to prevention and changing behaviour.

JOB FOUR: Documentation and filling in of a child concern form (or similar) and the drawing up of an action plan.

I’ve chosen my words carefully here – I said ‘at least’ four jobs to be done. I say this because dealing with bullying is hard and difficult work and when bullies bite there are usually many more jobs involved. The process is a lot more complicated than this simple and linear four stage process might suggest.

AND the process should be underpinned and supported by the legal responsibilities and roles that the school has. For example – all schools in England have a statutory responsibility to have, develop and update an anti-bullying policy. The word policy means simply an intention or a goal. The governors and headmistress ALSO has a different legal responsibility connected with their job. This should and usually includes a responsibility for publicising the anti-bullying policy, incorporating feedback from parents and suggesting amendments to make it more effective.   

Our current anti-bullying policy is the second version I have seen since my child started attending our school and I believe this version was developed with contributions by the governors of our school. It is important to remember that an anti-bullying policy is one element of a school behaviour policy, but there are and can be other elements to the whole behaviour policy. We’re going to look briefly at our own anti-bullying policy together at the end of this talk. Having said this please remember that the policy itself is exactly that – an intention or a goal. Unless each one of us familiarises ourselves with what it is and why – it will remain simply a piece of paper.

It was our current headmistress that first made me aware of the term ‘bystander’ in modern anti-bullying policy. This basically means that whichever one of us witnesses or hears of an incident of bullying will take responsibility for reporting it and thus help the child who is the target.

The hope is that the struggle against bullying becomes easier once grown ups, parents, teachers and children themselves support each other in this way. 

Back to the central question:

 “Who and how do you report bullying? Who do you report it to?”

If you are a parent  – your child’s teacher will usually be your first port of call. I’m using the word usually here. Referring to the ACE (Advisory Centre for Education) legal rights of parents on bullying document see links at the end of this document  – in summary of this – if you are not satisfied with your teachers action or answer you may wish to go higher and approach the head. You may also wish to do this if you consider the situation is very urgent.

I’m also using the word ‘usually’ here – for various reasons. If you are a parent who suspects something is wrong – you may not know the signs of bullying – you may have a range of feelings – upset, anger, disbelief, self-doubt – and you may be more likely to want to approach the person you trust most – and that person in the first instance may not be your child’s teacher – they may be a peer, a friend, or indeed your PTA rep or parent governor. So it is particularly important that everyone on the PTA – knows at least where and how to signpost a parent who is aware of an incident of bullying and may not know exactly what to do about it. That way we lose no time in dealing with the matter and offering support for those children and parents who need it.

Likewise the parents or carers of children who have bullied another child may experience a range of emotions. Disbelief, surprise, denial, embarrassment, isolation. If they want to talk – they need to know where to go and although we know that our PTA cannot offer advice on individual cases – each one of us can make sure that useful information and helpline numbers are easily accessible on our noticeboards and on the tables at our meetings.

Some (but not all of the  references used in this talk) – there are many, many more but I’ll try and keep this short as they all lead on to more:

 http://www.parentlineplus.org.uk/

Parentline – there are two parts to the parentline plus website at least, one is jam-packed full of help for parents and children and the other (parentline professional) offers help and training for teachers and anyone else who wishes to keep themselves informed i.e. PTA  members – they have recently launched an e-module on bullying which can be completed in around half an hour on the internet. Parentline will send anyone a free info pack through the post of their most recent leaflets for free.

http://www.ace-ed.org.uk/

Advisory Centre for Education: look under the publications list for the legal guide I mentioned and many other useful resources including a helpline. The guide for parents includes draft letters to a school – which might be used if bullying occurs.

http://www.parentsoutloud.com/school-dinner-lady-who-reported-bullying-wins-unfair-dismissal-claim/

Parents Outloud. Margaret Morrissey O.B.E co-ordinator and has a wealth of experience as a school governor. She covered the story I photocopied for the meeting about the School Dinner lady who told parents about bullied, was sacked and later reinstated as a result of an employment tribunal decision.

https://parentsguidetoeyfs.wordpress.com/anti-bullying-2

You’ll find my own article on ‘How to write an effective school anti-bullying policy’on this list which contains many of the suggestions I made at the meeting on how to improve our current policy including – putting in a clause on cyber-bullying – inserting a date into the anti-bullying policy so that we can tell when it was last reviewed – making the process of reporting very clear and several other suggestions. 

Discussion comment: I mentioned that there was much more to say about cyber –bullying that is possible in a talk of ten minutes but since the subject was raised I’m including a link here to the excellent Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency. On this site you will find explanations of what cyber-bullying is, and how it can affect children – with a break down of different age groups. There is a short quiz which parents can do which helps to keep us street-wise on this issue. Cyber bullying doesn’t start when children are older (i.e.) fourteen, but may well affect primary and very young children. Here’s the link:

http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/

 I came away from the PTA talk thinking it was a good start for a discussion, but also feeling that I hadn’t been explicit enough about some issues. Most notably when it would be really important in a case of cyber-bullying to contact the police immediately. As well as providing training and awareness raising programmes, The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre is your DIRECT LINE (pta members) to report abuse and child abuse on line – so please make a note of this  link and try to remember it, you may be doing a small person a great service one day. Easy to remember Google CEOP. They work fast. As you can see they acknowledge that cyber-bullying issues can start as young as FIVE YEARS OLD. And here is a link ABOUT US for CEOP. http://www.ceop.police.uk/About-Us/

This one explains who they are in relation to the police. The CEOP have indicated in the past that it is a huge challenge to raise awareness amongst parents so it is vital that anyone who represents or interacts with parents should be aware of this service.

 Frances Laing. 13.01.11

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