As it's anti-bullying week, we spoke to Gary Pykitt, Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, about the different forms that bullying can take and the important role that teachers have in identifying and tackling bullying in the modern age. Bullying is something that all teachers will deal with at some point in their professional life, so Gary has shared his top tips for tackling bullying, based on his experience in schools.
Change starts with us
The Anti-Bullying Alliance’s theme this year is ‘Change starts with us’. The aims are ‘Small change. Big difference’ and it suggests that making little, simple changes can change attitudes, break the cycle of bullying, and create a safe environment for all. The goal is to get everyone to take collective responsibility to stop bullying, and the campaign highlights the fact that we all have a role in preventing bullying.
Five tips for tackling bullying in school
Bullying is always of particular concern in schools and teachers have a particularly important role in identifying and preventing bullying. Here are my five top tips for dealing with bullying.
1: Education and preparation
Schools have a duty of care to prevent and tackle bullying proactively. A key way to do this is through the promotion of equality, so it is important to have a good understanding of the 2010 Equality Act, and the nine protected characteristics it relates to: age, disability, race, religion and belief, sex equality, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership and gender reassignment.
As a teacher, it’s important to know not only about your subject, but also about wider issues that may affect your role before you even reach the classroom. This includes bullying, and making sure you are aware of the forms it can take (verbal, social, physical or cyber) and the issues that could be involved (such as race or gender).
2: Embracing our differences
Getting children to understand that we are all different, but still equal, is paramount. Bullying often stems from misunderstanding of differences, so it’s important to encourage children to explore people’s differences and similarities. We may look different, sound different, or have different family backgrounds to one another but we are all equal and have value. Learning to accept and embrace these differences, and encouraging children to feel comfortable in themselves, can be really positive.
A good way to do this is to talk about differences regularly, so that they don’t become an issue. Young children can be very accepting of information they are told, so if they know it’s ok to be different they are less likely to form prejudicial ideas as they get older. So what if their friend has two mums, or parents from different cultures? If they know about it, it’s less likely to matter.
3: Having the right tools to hand
Having the tools and confidence to address certain issues that are common in cases of bullying can also help. Depending on personal beliefs or experiences, some may feel uncomfortable in tackling some forms of bullying, so additional support, knowledge and resources can be really helpful. There are lots of useful resources you can use in the classroom, including story books for primary aged children that address topics such as same sex parenting.
4: Don’t ignore it!
If you hear or see bullying, challenge it. Don’t just say ‘don’t say that’, but take the time to explore what happened / what was said with those involved. Sometimes we’re made to feel that certain words shouldn’t ever be used, but in fact in the right context it’s ok. Again, education is key and sometimes we all need a little help to truly understand what impact our actions can have on others (intentionally or not).
Finally, the most important tool in preventing bullying is clear communication. It is important to make sure that everyone knows what is happening in school, and how you are addressing key issues, especially if something is due to change. Ensure that communication channels with parents are open, so that they are involved in the conversation and understand that they also have a role in preventing bullying.
As the Anti-Bullying Alliance says: change starts with us.
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