Anti-Bullying Week Part 2
We continue our Anti-Bullying Week focus with some really important messages for parents.
Primary children often need simplification. This is difficult in the context of bullying, which can be a complex issue.
Sometimes, it helps to differentiate between somebody who is rude or mean, and bullying. Bullying is about intention. It often involves what we call an imbalance of power.
There are times when everyone (especially young children) can be perceived as being rude. When you inadvertently say or do something that causes an emotional reaction or hurts someone else, it's rude. The comments or actions sting, but there is no malice involved - no intent to hurt. Children may still be unaware that their behaviour is generally considered rude - and it's our job to teach them what is acceptable and polite. The kind of rudeness we get in school is talking with food in the mouth, pushing in line, bragging, dominating games or being the arbiter of who can and cannot play. These things may be repeated (because the perpetrator hasn't been told it's rude, so the cycle isn't broken) but they are generally spontaneous, inconsiderate but unplanned, thoughtless, resulting from poor manners - they are not meant to actually hurt the other child or children.
We can generally spot something that's mean, because there's purpose behind the words or actions - even if the child saying or doing them isn't fully aware of it at the time. The purpose of being mean is to hurt or depreciate the other person. Children can be mean about a lot of things. The meanness we see in school can be about clothing or possessions, interests or lack of interest in something, intelligence or ability - essentially anything the perpetrator can find to denigrate. When a child is being mean, it feels a lot more like bullying. There is an intent to hurt someone. Not always, but often, the intent is driven by the feelings of the perpetrator. It comes from a place of hurt or anger within themselves (not always caused by the recipient). We regularly see issues where the child is being mean because they are trying to prop themselves up in comparison to the child they are putting down. At Dosthill, one of our key virtues is also the antidote to meanness - kindness. That's why Monday 13th November kicked off our week celebrating World Kindness Day.
Meanness can have a big impact on those on the receiving end, and it isn't acceptable in school. We hold children accountable for being mean through our behaviour policy. We take into account their ages and stages of development. However, there is an important difference between meanness and bullying that makes sure we, as a school, put the right intervention in place.
Bullying is the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullies will say or do something intentionally hurtful to others and then keep doing it, even when the impact on the other person is known, they have asked them to stop or expressed the hurt being caused.
Bullying can be physical. At primary school, this tends to be the aggressive form of physical contact and takes the form of pushing, pulling, barging, hitting, kicking, tripping, spitting, hair-pulling - any verb to describe physical aggression that you'd hope would never happen to your child. Some of these happen inadvertently during the course of play, especially with younger children. It remains a question of intention.
Bullying can be verbal. Despite the old saying about sticks and stones, whether mean or bullying, we know that words and threats do hurt and, if not dealt with, cause lasting harm.
Bullying can be relational. This is where children use their friendship (or the threat of taking their friendship away) to hurt or control someone. Being left out is mean, but it can also be bullying. Excluding, giving dares or inappropriate tasks "...or we can't be friends." This kind of bullying is more pervasive than people think, and it takes school staff working in partnership with parents to really consider whether it's developmental, mean, or has become bullying.
Bullying is increasingly taking place in the digital world - even at primary school. We call it cyberbullying. Like other forms of bullying, it is wilful and repeated harm, but inflicted through the use of computers, gaming consoles, mobile phones, and other electronic devices.
Of course, bullying doesn't fit neatly into one definition or category. So why are these definitions important to us as a school and you as parents? Well - there is a real need to heighten awareness of bullying and a lot of great work has been done in this area - we are in Anti-bullying Week after all!
Within this, a danger in recent years is that people only take a shallow look at the issue, resulting in a lot more behaviour (and short-term discomfort for children) being labelled as bullying by parents, where it may better be labelled as rude or mean within the definitions outlined above. There is a very specific and detailed process for dealing with bullying in school. It takes time and people. Let's remember that all misbehaviour is unacceptable, but that bullying is:
- Deliberately hurtful
- Repeated, often over a period of time
- Difficult to defend against
The aim of this week and our coming policy development is to ensure Dosthill is a school that:
Believes - all pupils, including those with SEND, and their parents and carers are acknowledged, believed, and taken seriously when reporting incidents of bullying.
Reports - all pupils within the school and their parents and carers understand how to report incidents of bullying.
Acts - we respond quickly to all incidents of bullying. Pupils, including those with SEND, participate fully in decisions made about them and help to formulate appropriate action to respond to incidents of bullying.
Plans - our school's anti-bullying policy reflects these principles and is embedded within other school policies. They are widely and actively promoted by school staff to pupils and their parents and carers.