Bullying is a problem for a large number of children. Research has shown that about 1 in 8 children are directly involved in bullying either as bullies or victims. The results are distressing. Victims report the effects – loss of sleep, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, living in fear of going to school and, in extreme cases, suicide. Other outcomes can be physical injury and under-achievement at school. For bullies, one consequence can be to learn that aggressive behaviour helps them get their own way. Thus, successful bullying can contribute to anti-social behaviour in later life.
- Although we are a relatively small secondary school, situated in a rural north west Highland setting, without many of the problems associated with more urban schools in the south and east, we must never fall into the trap of complacency regarding anti-social behaviour in general, and bullying in particular.
- Schools in which bullies, no matter how isolated the cases may be, go unchecked can so easily transmit the message to pupils that teachers don’t care, or that bullying behaviour is acceptable. Schools can become unhappy, stressful places, not just for the victims who may truant to avoid being bullied, but for all those who witness and who feel threatened, or helpless, or who are persuaded to join in for fear that their turn will be next.
- The School fully recognises that bullying does not affect just the bullies and victims, but other children who see it happening, and so witness the distress of the victim and, as a consequence, suffer mental anguish. It also recognises that bullying not only sours the atmosphere of a class and the climate of the school, but can also draw pupils who are not aggressive by nature into the taunting and tormenting of victims by group pressure or psychological factors.
There follows a summary of our approach to the problem of combating bullying (entitled Combating Bullying). This is aimed at pupils and will be issued to them separately via PSHE lessons. The Homework Planner issued to all pupils includes the Combating Bullying document.
This is followed by a more detailed list of procedures including a description of the role of parents, pupils and staff (including the particular role of Pupil Support) .
Gairloch High School will not accept bullying behaviour of any kind. Within this context, the school is committed to taking firm, positive and immediate action to deal with all instances of bullying that comes to its attention.
A. The kinds of behaviour that count as bullying
- Bullying can be short term or can continue over years.
- Bullying can be physical or verbal, or even just an aggressive look.
- Bullying can be overt or subtle intimidation.
- Bullying can include name-calling, teasing, jostling, punching, intimidation, extortion
B. The school can only fulfil its duties to the best of its ability if everyone plays his or her part and lives up to their responsibilities – this includes teachers, parents and pupils. Remember the first two articles of Gairloch High School’s Pupils’ Bill of Rights.
- We have the right not to be bullied in any way, shape or form.
- We have the responsibility not to bully others and to report any bullying we see.
- We have the right to feel safe in and around the school.
- We have the responsibility to ensure the safety of all pupils by behaving in a proper
manner in and around the school.
C. It is very important therefore that, either as victim or observer, you report any bullying straight away. If you do not report any bullying you see then you will be encouraging the bully. Bullying behaviour can only continue if it is kept quiet therefore telling someone means you are half way to finding a solution to the problem.
(1) If you are the victim of bullying tell any or all of the following:
- your buddy (if you are in S1)
- class teacher
- pupil support teacher
- depute or head teacher
- another pupil (perhaps a friend)
(2) If you see bullying or have bullying reported to you (perhaps by a friend):
- tell any or all of the above
D. Once reported the school will act in a sensitive although active manner to ensure the problem is removed.
If school staff, parents and pupils all work together then the right of every pupil to feel safe in school and not to be bullied can be ensured.
1. What staff should do if they see or are told about bullying taking place.
It may be difficult to recognise bullies, as well as their victims, in that they do not conform to stereotype. In other words, they come in all shapes and sizes. However, while it may not be safe to stereotype, victims are usually ‘different’ in some sense – they may be larger or smaller, talk with a different accent, or come from a different part of the country (or community). It may be that children with special educational needs are particularly at risk, especially if there is a physical disability. However, bullies will often invent differences and ascribe them to their victims as a way of legitimising bullying. Therefore, although it is important to recognise that certain children may be particularly at risk, it is even more important to realise that any child can become a victim and to act accordingly.
2. Staff Response to an incident or report of one
- Take the incident or report seriously and be wary of “labelling” pupils or parents
- Report the above immediately to either the Headteacher (HT) or Depute Headteacher (DHT) If it involves a specific incident you have come across or intervened in, then both parties should be brought to the HT or DHT, remaining with them to give a proper account of what you saw or heard. On no account should both parties be left unsupervised. If you have a class, then ask your nearest colleague to keep an eye on it until your return. If you have not actually witnessed an incident, but a pupil has reported that he / she is being bullied, again take it seriously, and report it as soon as possible that same day to the HT or DHT. In both instances, the HT or DHT will determine the immediate action to be taken, if convenient, in collaboration with the appropriate Guidance Teacher in case there are mitigating factors. It should be recognised that this may not always be convenient or even possible. If you are merely suspicious but have no concrete evidence, this must still be taken seriously, reporting your suspicions to the appropriate Pupil Support Teacher who will then carry out a fuller investigation in collaboration with the HT or DHT.
- All staff are asked to be particularly vigilant, ready to report and deal with specific incidents, as outlined above, and encourage pupils to speak up.
3. Staff can also act as anti-bullying role models
- show respect for every child as an individual
- show respect for all colleagues, both teaching and non-teaching
- have high expectations of pupils
- be aware of vulnerable children
- criticise the behaviour rather than the child
- avoid favouritism
- be seen to be fair
- avoid labelling
- avoid reference to other members of the family (‘just like your brother’)
- never give pupils ammunition to use against each other
The value of involving ALL school staff in anti-bullying strategies is that it helps to ensure a consistent response to bullying incidents.
As important, it signals their role as fully involved members of the school community with special knowledge, perhaps, of bullying danger zones as well as a special concern for vulnerable pupils.
4. The Role of Pupil Support
Pupil Support staff will be particularly involved in a MONITORING and COUNSELLING capacity for both victim(s) and perpetrator(s), but not in a disciplinary role. This will be the responsibility of the Headteacher or DHT. Liaison with parents and outside agencies, outwith the disciplinary system, will also be carried out by Guidance.
The particular relationship built up between the pupil Support teacher and pupil should be such that victims and witnesses can talk in confidence, and in the knowledge that action will be taken. This is a vital but difficult cog in the machine: speaking up is not easy for pupils – it goes against the whole culture of not telling. The school, therefore, has to signal to pupils that it is alright to tell and that what they say will be taken seriously.
5. Involving Pupils
- “Talking is the only way to stop bullying.” (Bullying and how to fight it, SCRE publication)
- “Bullying” must have a high and purposeful profile on the school’s PSHE programme.
- Pupils must be encouraged to discuss bullying in a range of classroom situations. These strategies may be designed, for example, to get the bully to empathise with the victim through role-play, drama or discussion circles.
- Pupils must be encouraged as victims or witnesses to speak up about bullying.
- Senior pupils (Prefects) have an important role to play in the prevention, detection and reporting process. S6 pupils in their buddying role have a very important part to play.
- All pupils will be issued with the Combating Bullying Document, and this will be gone over at an appropriate point during PSHE. The Homework Planner issued to all pupils includes this document.
6. Involving Parents
Parents care deeply about their children and want school to be a happy and enjoyable experience for them. Bullying is a highly emotive subject but a calm, patient and understanding approach will be much more productive than one where recriminations dominate.
Parents of victims can be upset, anxious and defensive to protect their child. This makes treating them seriously and with respect all the more important, working together to identify ways of tackling the bullying is the goal. Here, it is important to try and establish a clear picture of events and to stress the unacceptability of the behaviour. Avoid condemning the person; condemn the behaviour.
There may be occasions when parents and children do not accept that their behaviour is out of order; for example, fighting may be regarded as the appropriate way to resolve disputes. However, while home and school values will not always be a perfect match, parents’ trust in teachers’ professional expertise, and their general belief that most schools are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, ought not be underestimated.
Gairloch High School is very fortunate in having a solid bedrock of parental support, which has been enhanced even further through the School’s “OPEN DOOR” policy in general, and that of Guidance in particular. This can be capitalised on in our actions against bullying.
7. Mapping the Risks
No school would want to rely on reacting to incidents of bullying. The goal is to reduce to a minimum the chances of an incident taking place. However, mapping likely trouble spots can lead to preventative action
- Classroom Evidence suggests that bullying here is uncommon and a direct result of poor class control or a teacher leaving the class unattended. In Gairloch High School we strive to ensure that these are not issues.
- Within the school building Toilets, cloakrooms, social and tuck-shop areas, as well as quiet and isolated corners, should all be checked by staff and prefects on duty at intervals and lunch breaks, and be seen by pupils (possible victims as well as perpetrators) to be checked.
- Outside Playing fields and “the back of the school” are also vulnerable areas, and a staff/ prefect profile should also be maintained there.
It is also well known that a school’s values are transmitted through the “hidden” curriculum as well as through the lessons on the timetable. All adults in the school have a vital role as role models. They need to practise what they preach in terms of anti-bullying as well as ethos, and this includes behaviour to each other as well as to pupils.
The single most important thing that Gairloch High School can do to combat bullying is to make sure that this policy is both active and committed to by ALL staff, teaching and non-teaching.
This condition will only apply when:
- a clear lead and active support is taken by the Headteacher
- the whole school firmly believes that bullying is a serious issue, that no child deserves to be bullied, that pupils have a right to learn in an atmosphere free from fear and intimidation, and that all staff have a responsibility to help ensure that Gairloch High School’s Policy on Bullying is both active and successful
- all staff are aware of what constitutes bullying
- there exists within the school an ethos that encourages victims and witnesses to speak up
- there is a readiness to treat incidents seriously however trivial they may seem at first glance
- there is a willingness to take action, and to be seen to take action, when bullying is reported
- there is a school and classroom ethos that promotes respect for the individual
The very nature of schools as social institutions means that the risk of bullying is always there, and school can’t “do” bullying in one year and then forget it. Like effective discipline it needs to be continually worked at and regularly evaluated.
NO CHILD DESERVES TO BE BULLIED
ALL PUPILS HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEARN IN AN ATMOSPHERE FREE FROM FEAR AND INTIMIDATION