All schools are required to provide a behaviour policy that includes measures to prevent bullying, but a policy is not enough on its own.
Bullying in schools is a sad reality for many children. Regardless of policies in place, it is a real struggle for children coping with it.
No school is exempt from bullying. Schools need to acknowledge that it is happening, regardless of the general behaviour or attitudes of the pupils. It happens in every school: we must not shy away from admitting that.
Schools need to ensure that active measures are taken to prevent bullying in schools and ensure that children and staff are educated on the various types of bullying and their consequences.
Preventative measures and cohesive responses to bullying are essential for all pupils to feel safe and heard. Pupils need to have the confidence that they will be taken seriously.
This year’s theme for anti-bullying week is ‘choose respect’. Bullying is a behaviour choice and schools need to have a no excuses, no tolerance approach.
A successful preventative approach
Prevention methods that deal with the root cause of behaviour see a lot of success. One prevention method is introducing peer playground monitors in the form of ‘buddies’ and ‘rangers’.
Buddies, rangers, or playground monitors are roles of responsibility that many schools employ to support the relationship developments of children. They are a friendly, approachable face in the playground, available for support with friendships, arguments or pupils generally feeling lonely.
One school that I worked in previously employed a fantastic system of roles and responsibilities to ensure that children took their position as a buddy very seriously. Buddies were reserved for Year 5 and 6 pupils and, on transition days, the thing Year 3 and 4 children were always most looking forward to was the opportunity to become a buddy.
The children then eagerly anticipated seeing the job advert that would appear on the notice board in September. They would then complete an application form stating why they would make a good buddy. The questions were wonderful for PSHE links and also enabled children who may sometimes make the wrong behaviour choices to reflect on areas that they would change in order to take on this prestigious position within the school.
Interviews were then held with role-play scenarios to have the children show how they would deal with different playground problems. They would then be offered the job and undertake training to become an effective buddy.
This process was very successful and most children who applied for the role become a buddy. This has the added incentive of enabling a child who may have, in the past, been making the wrong choices to receive training and coaching without any negative stigma and understand the impact that their behaviour has on another child.
We even encouraged particular children to go for the role, both those who might experience difficulty in forming relationships and friendships with others, and those who may have previously been directly affecting others with their intimidating behaviour.
I believe that the reason buddy and ranger systems are so successful in preventing bullying is because pupils are actively taking responsibility for one another. This makes them think of others more and therefore become less likely to engage in hurtful behaviour.