Sadly statistics shows that most pupils, at some point in their education, have been bullied at school. Bullying can be very distressing to students and worrying for their parents. It can impact on pupil’s learning and lead to truancy, school refusal or mental health problems.
It can also affect students in their adult life. Long term effects of school bullying are numerous and can include sensitivity, anxiety and depression. A survey of adults by the Oxford Open Learning Trust suggested:
- 65% of adults confirmed that school bullying had affected their self-confidence into adulthood
- 36% said that it had affected their ability to make friends
- 27% said that it had affected their mental health.
Bullying isn’t something that happens once and then you shrug it off, it is something which follows you throughout your life.
What is bullying and how can we stop it?
Bullying can take a number of different forms but generally speaking it is behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally.
In simple terms - it is meant to be hurtful and it keeps happening! It can be in two forms:
- physically - e.g. hitting, kicking, pinching
- emotionally - e.g. name calling, teasing, isolating
As part of your general duty of care towards pupils and your responsibility to ensure that they are safe, you should familiarise yourself with your school’s Anti Bullying Policy. Make sure you are aware of procedures in place to deal with incidents of bullying and make sure your students are empowered too - so they are not bullies, bystanders or victims.
Sadly statistics show that only 20–40% of bullying victims actually report being bullied (despite 5 –15% of students being constantly bullied) so we need to be aware!
Be aware that bullies come in all shapes, sizes and genders. Don’t focus on the stereotypes.
Be aware of locations where bullying may occur. Most likely it will be in outdoor/indoor recess areas, toilets, hallways or any location where there is minimal supervision and unstructured time. It may also be taking place quite subtly in your classroom - right under your nose. The ringleader may be the very last pupil in the class you would suspect!
Be aware of direct bullying. This is relatively easy to spot as it takes the form of an open attack on a victim that is physical and/or verbal in nature.
Be aware of indirect bullying. This is more subtle and harder to detect. It often involves one or more forms of relational aggression, including social isolation, intentional exclusion, rumor spreading, damaging someone's reputation, making faces or obscene gestures behind someone's back, and manipulating friendships and other relationships.
Be aware of cyber-bullying. This is using the internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
With many pupils failing to report bullying what can we as teacher do?
- Always keep the lines of communication open by starting conversations about daily life and feelings.
- Listen for clues as students talk and follow up with further questions if you suspect something is happening to the individual.
- Help students to understand what bullying is. Students who know what bullying is can better identify it.
- Let students know what steps to take if they have been bullied or have seen someone else get bullied. Encourage students to always report bullying - it’s not tale telling.
- Let them know that bullying is not acceptable for any reason, and they should report it immediately.
Signs that a child is being bullied
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing
- Change in eating habits
- Declining grades
- Continuous school absences
- Lack of self-esteem
Helping students who are bullied
- Teach social skills and model healthy/respectful relationships
- Build self-esteem
- Encourage students to report bullying
- Advocate for individual children
- Promote inclusive classrooms
- Manage student interactions
- Intervene early and frequently as necessary.
Don’t forget - one of the most effective ways of preventing bullying is to help the students who bully by:
- Help them change the way they use their power
- Acknowledge positive behaviours
- Give consequences that teach and don’t simply punish
- Establish a code of conduct
- Have student sign a behavioural contract.