The Problem . . The Challenge . . The Tools . . The Solution . . !
The Problem: Bullying occurs among school children as young as six years old. 12% of 10-year-olds say they were bullied "about weekly" (International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement, 2012). By teenage years about 30% of pupils are bullied in any half-term period. (Anti-Bullying Centre, Trinity College, Dublin, 2008). 55% of young people claim to have been bullied (UNICEF Report: Changing the Future, 2012).
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Bullying has a well documented and very serious negative impact in both the short term and the long term on targeted pupils. Left unchecked, it can also lead to very bad outcomes for unreformed bullying pupils, with 60% of boys involved having a criminal conviction by age 24 and 35% of boys involved having at least three such convictions (Dan Olweus, 1993). In the long run, then, bullying is bad for everyone involved and everyone stands to benefit if it can be prevented or reduced.
The Challenge: Have you ever wished you could contribute to reducing bullying in your school? Where would you begin? Bullied pupils and their parents are always, and rightly advised to report bullying to teachers, to you.
In the past a lot of emphasis was put on building up the resilience, assertiveness and self-esteem of bullied pupils in the hope that they would become "bully proof" but since this was usually a reactive response after damage was already done it was difficult to achieve. Since it required specialist skills that most teachers do not have, school guidance counsellors played a vital role here. Furthermore, this approach did not prevent bullying as the unreformed perpetrator could then target another pupil instead.
Traditionally, pupils involved in bullying faced punishment if they were identified. This made several negative outcomes more likely: (a) it helped foster a "no ratting" culture in schools in which observers of bullying behaviour were reluctant to report it to adults so the bullying continued, (b) it triggered resentment in the bullying pupil that made it more dangerous for the targeted pupil or observers to report the bullying, for fear of a backlash, so they kept silent or (c) it caused the bullying to move outside the school where it could be more "safely" carried out. Punishment, then, did little to end the bullying - as is obvious from the prevalence of bullying in schools today. An alternative was needed.
The Tools: We are offering teachers ready-made downloadable anti-bullying tools and an easy to follow school-wide framework in which to use them to deal effectively with the problem of bullying. We have been developing, gathering or adapting them for use, firstly at second (high school) level since 2004 in Coláiste Éanna, Ballyroan Rd., Dublin 16, Ireland (a school in the Edmund Rice Schools Trust - formerly C.B.S.) and more recently for use at primary (elementary) school level. We have been guided in our efforts by the wisdom of such well-known writers and researchers in this field as Dr. Mona O'Moore (Ireland), Dr. Dan Olweus (Norway) and Dr. Ken Rigby (Australia). This development is ongoing. We offer these tools free of charge because we believe that pupil welfare, safety and happiness are rights that should not have a price-tag. Indeed, we hope that any other teachers who have useful anti-bullying tools/resources will share these with us and, through this website, with colleagues in other schools on the same basis - a kind of teachers' anti-bullying co-operative. Then pupils can benefit even more.
The Solution: For bullying to be successfully and permanently brought to an end the focus needs to be on (a) reforming the minority of pupils who bully others so they become like the majority who do not, (b) empowering observers of bullying behaviour to safely report bullying to adults (teachers) so this reforming process can be undertaken and (c) equipping the adults (teachers) to carry out both the empowering of the observers and the reforming of those bullying so the bullying stops without any backlash against anyone involved - a "win-win" outcome.
Using the tools we provide to implement the Anti-Bullying Campaign programme in schools bullying students are reformed, bullying is reduced, observers are empowered to become more vigilant and supportive of targeted pupils and the lives of targeted pupils are made a lot happier. There may always be some bullying in schools, as elsewhere, but by implementing the Anti-Bullying Campaign programme in schools a culture of the Three "R"s can be developed, a culture where bullying is Recognised, Rejected and Reported by pupils. Teachers are then empowered to respond effectively to reports of bullying behaviour using our "Reform, not Blame" approach to deal with the bullying situations. Full implementation of the Anti-Bullying Campaign programme in Coláiste Éanna led to a dramatic increase in the reporting of bullying behaviour followed by a significant reduction in both the number of pupils bullied and the intensity of bullying situations. It also enabled over 90% of bullying situations to be resolved. In the absence of punishment there was no negative backlash against either targeted pupils, bullying pupils or observers. The programme continues to deliver this success rate.
The tools we offer are not a "quick-fix" solution to bullying. They depend for their effectiveness on the willingness of teachers to use them and a commitment from schools to give priority to implementation of the Anti-Bullying Campaign programme. To minimise the workload involved for teachers, the tools we offer are ready-made and generally self-explanatory, even for pupils - we have already done the preparation and planning for you. They can be used in normal class time without adding any further time to the weekly workload of busy teachers.
Our comprehensive Anti-Bullying Campaign pregramme is much more effective at reducing bullying in schools than an "anti-bullying week" or other occasional one-off anti-bullying events. It is more effective than relying on SPHE, CSPE and Religious Education programmes or indeed all of these since these have a broader remit and cannot devote the time needed to deal effectively with bullying situations when they arise. The fact that bullying is still so widespread in schools is testament to this. Therefore, we encourage you and a group of your teacher colleagues to register above (click on the "Register" icon above and follow the instructions). Together, you can then implement a successful Anti-Bullying Campaign programme in your school along the lines we suggest without adding to your weekly workload. We believe that no work teachers do is more important or should get higher priority than this. If you do this we think that when you see the outcome you will consider it well worth the effort. Your pupils certainly will.
Anti-Bullying Campaign logo by Eoin Kelleher, 4th year student, 2008. Note the faces in the clouds.