By our resident cousellor, Al Chester.
I’m going to share with you my top tips in handling this sensitive issue with your child, their school and teachers. I’ll also explain what you can expect schools to be doing to help address any such behavior.
In recent years the effects and consequences of bullying have been bought to our attention through the media, reporting countless suicides by young people who see no alternative.
Whether you suspect your child is being bullied or not, there are important things parents, carers and teachers need be aware of.
What is bullying?
This may seem an obvious question, but it’s important to understand the behavior before attaching the bullying label. Bullying is:
- Carried out by an individual or group
- Deliberate behavior with the intention of hurting
- Sustained over a period of time
- An imbalance of power
How does it take place?
I can recall the days when bullying was something we often accepted as part of growing up. Back then, bullying would take place in the school playground, or classroom and involved name-calling or a bit of roughing up. The one positive I could take from this was I could get some rest-bite from it in the comfort of my home at the end of each day. This is no longer the case. With social media being an essential part of every-day life, bullying can even penetrate the safest of havens. Cyber bullying is the term used to carry out bullying via online technology and means there is no escape and could explain the rising number of bullying-related suicides amongst children and young people.
With the emergence of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, bullying has become easier, quicker and more direct. It’s also able to be broadcast to a much larger audience. In a report dated 2011 the charity Beatbullying claims 1 in 3 children have experienced some form of cyber bullying with 20% reluctant to go to school because of this.
There is a huge amount of shame attached to being bullied, feeling weak and somehow “it’s my fault”. Not surprisingly children and young people find it difficult to recognise and admit when they’re being bullied. There are signs to look out for though if concerned:
- Constant anxiety or nervousness
- Tearfulness for no apparent reason
- Lack of confidence and negative self image
- Inability to concentrate
- Under-achieving at school/ college
- Being disruptive and challenging at school
- Lashing out and being defensive
Dos and don’ts
Things you can do to help the situation – and what NOT to do.
- Try and get your child’s consent before acting on anything
- Collate evidence– take screenshots of any cyberbullying. (Include emails, text messages, photos of damaged property, scars or bruises along with dates and times)
- Don’t try to sort out the bullying yourself by approaching the bullies – this can make things much worse for the victim
- If the bullying is occurring outside of school then consult your local police
- Ensure that you have the most secure privacy settings on all social networks
- Be careful with what material your child shares online – once a photo is shared online there is no taking it back
- Be mindful of trying to sort it out yourself with the bullies’ parents. No matter how good your relationships might be, it can often lead to a break-down in relationships
Dealing with the school
All schools have an obligation to protect pupils and must have an anti-bullying policy by law. Attempting to deal with bullying can be frustrating and emotionally draining. Following these steps can help alleviate some of the stress.
- Approach the school with your concerns, either a class tutor or head of year. Actions should be put in place by the teacher to help resolve or monitor the situation. Also, ask for a copy of their anti-bullying policy.
- If you’re dissatisfied with the outcome or progress, you’re entitled to make a formal complaint. Detail all your concerns in writing to the school’s complaints officer. You should expect acknowledgement of this within 3-5 days. You can then expect to be notified of any further progress or actions taken within 20 days of the initial complaint.
- If you’re still unhappy with the outcome you can escalate your complaint to the Headteacher. The school is obliged to write to you and detail their reasoning for the action taken and what else they plan to do to seek a resolution.
- In the rare event you’re still dissatisfied, a written complaint to the schools governing body should be the next port of call. The Governors will consider your case and make a decision on what to do. Make sure you detail everything that you are complaining about and the way your complaint has been handled. The governing body should not have had any involvement with your case prior to this.
You can also escalate your complaint to the school’s local authority or the Director of Education. In the event of this you can expect a report back of recommendations, usually within 20 days.
If you’re still unhappy and have exhausted all avenues then you can try approaching the Secretary of State for Education and skills, Ofsted or the local Government Ombudsmen.
For more information and support can be found here: