The overarching ethos of any organisation should make it clear that bullying is never acceptable and that all adults, children and young people understand the role that they play in addressing bullying. Establishing the right culture is at the heart of what you do to create an environment where bullying cannot thrive. Bullying incidents should be reviewed individually and a number of different practices will probably need to be adopted to find the most effective response. There isn’t one, single practice that will work in every situation, but the following provides suggestions and information which you could apply:
Procedures and Guidelines: Either within the policy or as separate guidelines, organisations should clearly lay out the procedures that they expect to be followed when bullying incidents and behaviour occur. It is important that individual schools or services/clubs devise a local policy in consultation with your stakeholders and make sure it reflects the organisational policy or the National Approach.
This will provide predictability for all concerned, including children and young people, staff, parents and carers. It will also allow for consistency in the approach and measures used, ensuring that everyone is being treated fairly, regardless of who is dealing with the situation. All guidelines should begin by reiterating the organisational stance on bullying behaviour and then provide further practical advice and guidance. In terms of online bullying, it is important for guidelines to be clear on the use of mobile phones, when these can be used and the consequences for misuse. An open and realistic stance is required on this. Where the boundaries are clear, organisations will be able to manage this behaviour more effectively.
Communication: Everyone the policy will have an impact upon should be made aware of what is expected of them in their role, and of any changes to procedures and practices. This can be done collectively to begin with by having an anti-bullying policy launch: perhaps holding a conference and event where everyone is informed and the organisational stance on bullying is explored and clearly stated. All staff should be made aware of the policy as part of their induction.
Encourage individuals to speak to colleagues to discuss how this will affect them and their role. Keep it on the agenda for team meetings and perhaps have an on-going working group to discuss how successful the policy is in reality. This will allow ownership of the policy.
Parents and carers should also be made aware of their responsibilities and the organisation’s expectations. They should be fully aware of what will happen if a bullying incident occurs involving their child and their responsibilities in relation to this. It should also be made clear what the organisational procedures will be. This can be done through parents meetings and conferences or by asking the children and young people to develop information leaflets that will be sent home to parents and carers. The organisational stance should also be communicated to children and young people. This can be done through conference days, topic boards or assemblies where bullying can be discussed and the message that bullying is never acceptable reinforced.
The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 requires Scottish Ministers and education authorities to promote the involvement of parents in children's education at publicly funded schools. It aims to help all parents to be:
Involved with their child's education and learning
Welcomed as active participants in the life of the school
Encouraged to express their views on school education generally and work in partnership with the school
Training and Support should be provided to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in relation to the anti-bullying policy. This guidance is essential so that everyone is aware of how a policy will be implemented into practice and what they are expected to do to achieve this. respectme provides anti-bullying training (link to calendar)
Questionnaires can be used to discover the true nature and extent of the problem. This will allow you to adapt your practices to ensure that you are addressing these problem areas. An example of this may be looking at environmental factors. If you discover that certain areas, such as changing rooms, corridors or certain routes are common ‘hot-spots’ for bullying, increasing supervision in these areas may deter bullying from taking place. The results obtained from the questionnaire should be shared and discussed to ensure that everyone engages with the practices being put in place.
Ground rules can be devised by children and young people focusing on how they should interact with each other and what they will do if they experience bullying. These will differ depending on the ages of the children involved, but may include statements such as: “We will respect each other and our differences.” and “When we see someone being bullied we will try to help.” These should be prominently displayed for all to see and if bullying behaviour occurs or relationships are negative, the behaviour can be checked by reminding children and young people of the statements.
Activities such as role-play, art work, drama and literature can provide further reinforcement that bullying is wrong and provide an empathetic approach to those who have been bullied or those who witness bullying.
Visual reminders around the organisation such as posters and badges also provide reinforcement. These should also be on school or organisational websites if possible. A clear visual commitment to equality and diversity gives a clear message.
Discussion around topics such as what is bullying, who would you tell and the impacts of bullying can help to develop attitudes and create an environment where bullying is unacceptable. Examples can be taken from the media or put forward by the children and young people themselves. Get young people to discuss how bullying is perceived in popular culture either using art, drama, as part of presentations or class themes. They can also explore issues such as prejudice, racism and homophobia.
Peer Mediation: This is a problem solving approach to bullying led by young poeple. They are trained to provide guidance and mediation to other children and young people when bullying occurs. This can provide a helpful environment where there is no imbalance of power. Peer mediation will only be suitable to deal with certain types of bullying behaviour. Children and young people who are being picked on or teased, being called names or being put down, being ignored, left out or having rumours spread about them may benefit from this process. However it is not suitable in all cases. For example, violent incidents, incidents based on difference or perceived difference and unlawful practices would require the support and intervention of adults. It is important to make these distinctions clear to all children and young people who are providing mediation and ensure that support is available for all concerned. We should also be mindful of the impact being exposed to bullying and other serious behaviours can have on children and young people. Any peer support systems must have robust and clear adult guidance and support to be effective.
Building positive relationships and promoting resilience: The overarching value that bullying is never acceptable should also be adopted throughout the relationships that we have. Building positive relationships based on respect and embracing difference is essential to prevent bullying. Teaching children and young people to negotiate relationships, socialise appropriately and to find non-bullying strategies to deal with conflict will create an environment where bullying is less likely to be accepted.
Restorative Practices and Solution-Focused Approaches is an umbrella term used to cover different methods to address bullying behaviour and build relationships of those involved. Traditional methods concentrate on what’s happened, who’s to blame and what the punishment is. Restorative practices ask: What’s happened? Who has been affected and how? How can we put it right? What have we all learned so we can make different choices next time? Restorative practices must be embedded into day-to-day practices and relationships for them to be effective, and facilitators should be thoroughly trained in their application.
Role-modelling and self-awareness amongst adults is also important. The relationship between adults and children and young people should also mirror these values. Children will model their behaviour on what they are witnessing and we should always be mindful of this. Lead by example. If you boss, judge and criticise, children and young people will think this behaviour is acceptable and will follow your lead. Let children know that bullying is never acceptable and explain why. Talk to children and young people and, most importantly, listen to them. Show children respect and they are more likely to respect others.
ICT/Mobile phone policies can also be a helpful tool in reinforcing the consequences of misuse of technology.
When bullying becomes persistent and violent and interventions are not successful, firmer action may be required. This should be dictated by your organisation’s behaviour policy and supported by your anti-bullying policy. Examples of consequences may include:
Withdrawal of privileges e.g. football team, computer access, clubs
Internal exclusion, not allowed to play in the playground at break, or removal from a group in class
Not allowed to attend organised trips and events
Staged/Fixed term exclusion from school or group as a last resort
There may be a case for police involvement if a crime has been committed