Anti-bullying week starts on 16 November and this year’s theme is ‘Make a noise about bullying’, aiming to encourage and empower children and young people to speak out if they are experiencing bullying or know someone who is.
The issue of bullying remains prevalent in many schools. Ofsted’s 2010 ‘TellUs4’ survey of 253,000 children aged 10-15 found that 49% said that they had experienced bullying at some point whilst at school, with 29% of those, saying that the bullying had occurred within the last year.
According to ‘Always there when I need you: ChildLine annual review 2014-15’, ChildLine provided almost 290,000 counselling sessions to children and young people. This was an increase of 10,000 on the previous year with bullying related issues remaining one of the top reasons for calling the helpline. Both ChildLine and Ditch the Label found that girls were far more likely to report being bullied than boys. They also found name calling and social exclusion from peer groups to be very common forms of bullying.
The National Centre for Social Research study, ‘Estimating the prevalence of young people absent from school due to bullying’, May 2011, indicates that 16,000 young people aged 11-15 are absent from school at any one time due to bullying. Other research adds to the growing evidence base of the correlation between being bullied and the risk of developing poor mental health, including self-harm and suicide.
Whilst it’s encouraging to know that some children and young people are reaching out when they are being bullied, there are still many children who don’t feel able to speak up. The reasons for this are varied and do of course differ from child to child. Those experiencing bullying can feel very scared, anxious and lonely and sometimes confused about what to do.
Bullying involves a dynamic of power in balance. This can sometimes leave those who are being bullied with feelings of shame and embarrassment, and some may even feel that they themselves are in some way to blame for the bullying. Children and young people may also have a perception that telling someone about the bullying could make things worse, with worries of further retaliation or isolation by peers for ‘grassing’.
Some children may even feel willing to accept the behaviour in the hope of being accepted by the perpetrating group, a more common reason in ‘friendship groups’ or ‘cliques’. This type of bullying can also be quite subtle and may not even be recognised as bullying behaviour.
Research has shown that the characteristics of children who are bullied can include other vulnerability factors such as SEND, LAC, low attainment and low self-esteem, their vulnerability and previous experiences may lead to fears of not being believed.
Efforts to encourage independence and resilience present a risk that some children may feel they should be ‘tough enough’ to deal with problems on their own. In cases of cyber bullying, children often worry that their tablets or phones will be taken away in an attempt to stop the bullying rather than being advised to copy communications and report them.
Understanding the reasons why bullying often goes unreported helps to inform the development of effective anti-bullying strategies. This year’s theme encourages schools to explore these issues directly with children and young people, to empower them to ‘make some no!se’ if they are being bullied or know someone who is. It’s also a good time to dedicate additional lesson time to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness and individuality and to reiterate everyone’s equal right to feeling safe, respected and valued.
Here are some simple ideas to ensure your anti-bullying week is a success both short- and long-term:
- Publicise your school’s anti-bullying policy, and include tips and guidance on your school website. Find support and resources here
- Complete an ‘Anti-bullying health check’ then use the findings to update your school’s policy and practice
- Commit to achieving the Unicef Rights Respecting School’s Award
- Use lesson time to explore and celebrate diversity
- Set up a peer mentoring programme to help children and young people recognise the harm caused by bullying. It could also help those being bullied or who know someone who is to ‘make a no!se’ and confidently speak out
- Get creative. Organise an anti-bullying assembly and give out prizes for the best poem, art work or poster to reflect this year’s theme or use drama lessons as a safe space to explore the issues of bullying.
- Children and young people can contact ChildLine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year on 0800 1111 and at childline.org.uk. Find a range of tips and advice here.
Or look here to access support from Ditch the Label.