Strategies to Reduce Bullying
Talking to adults
Children have reported various ways of dealing with being bullied, with telling teachers, friends or parents as the most common strategy, but often being used after others have failed.
Teachers were more likely to be told when the pupil felt unable to stop the bullying or felt particularly threatened, (Hunter and Boyle, 2004).
Telling adults worked as a strategy when staff response was consistent and persisted until effective. However, many young people viewed telling teachers as a risk, with disadvantages as well as possible benefits (Coram Report 2003). Often young people experiencing homophobic bullying would not report it to teachers or parents because of homophobic attitudes that they had heard them express. 51% of primary aged pupils said they might tell their teacher but only 31% of secondary aged ones. Listening to young people, showing empathy and acting on their suggestions was seen by children as the most useful way of teachers tackling bullying. Students were unsure that teachers could offer protection for them against retaliation after school hours.
Similarly, telling parents was seen as helpful because of the emotional support they could offer or because they might intervene on their behalf with school. However young people also perceived risks:possibly contributing to family arguments or parental worry; not being believed by parents; adults over-reacting. Often younger children said they would tell their mothers.
Talking to someone seemed to result in the bullying stopping more often than did other measures (Smith, 2004). Encouragingly, 60% of pupils of all ages reported that they thought their school was "very" or "quite good" at tackling bullying, but there were big difference between schools (Coram Report 2003). Younger pupils were more likely to ring Childline (39% of Year 5s against 14% of Year 8s).
Talking to confidential counselling services was seen as a valuable source of support, as students reported that they offered a listening ear, someone to talk through options with, and still allow them to retain some control over what and how quickly anything was disclosed. Younger children (39% against 14% of Year 8s) might call Childline, with slightly fewer children of any age involving the police (33% against 11% of older ones). Some had an idea that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services or the NSPCC might be a source of support. The OFSTED 2003 report on bullying in secondary school listed other agencies who might offer support, including Connexions, learning mentors, and representatives from YMCA, Barnardo's and voluntary organisations.
Talking to other young people
Generally developing friendships was viewed as one of the three most effective strategies to tackle bullying by Year 5 and Year 8 pupils (Coram study 2003). Friends were seen as: someone to talk to who may have been there when the bullying took place; more likely to understand and offer support; offer some protection against bullying happening again. Two thirds of each age group would tell their friends.
For people who experience homophobic bullying, seeking support from friends cannot be relied upon. They reported that friends may even have initiated verbal bullying or joined in with others, perhaps because preferring relationships with someone of the same sex or showing characteristics usually associated with another gender is seen as "not normal" (Childline). Generally initiatives to tackle bullying need to involve peers to be successful.
Often children tried to ignore the bullying or avoided the bully. This was another of the three strategies viewed as most effective by primary and secondary aged students. A third of primary school pupils in the Coram report viewed this as effective, but by Year 8 young people had less faith in this approach.
Retaliating in a physical way/talking back
Learning to stick up for oneself was the third effective strategy that was identified. 23% of Year 8 pupils in the Coram study saw this as a strategy that would work, especially boys, but just 15% did so in Year 5. There was some suggestion that black and Asian pupils in this study saw this approach as potentially effective. The method taken changes with age, more physical means being increasingly likely as children get older.
In the longer term some young people (31% in Year 8) thought learning a martial art might be an effective way to stop bullying. Almost a quarter of pupils in Year 5 were optimistic about talking back assertively as being successful whereas fewer than 10% of Year 8 pupils thought it would be.
Interventions initiated by adults
Interventions to stop bullying have been varied, from those directed at the victims (solution focused therapy), the bullies (bully courts), or through developing a supportive peer group (such as through the CHIPS ( Childline in partnership with schools) programme, Smith and Watson 2004).
Each approach has reports of successes under certain conditions, e.g. bully courts worked with Year 7 when combined with Year 12 mentors but less well with Year 8 and 9 students, and in the CHIPS research, the scheme worked well with many groups but not so well with secondary aged boys.
The government's advice pack, 'Don't Suffer in Silence' published in 2002-03, found that having a whole school policy, circle time, active listening and counselling approaches as well as working with parents were the preferred strategies used by schools (Smith et al 2003, 2004). This pack was then superceded by Safe to Learn
A recent OFSTED report, 'No Place for Bullying'
gives valuable guidance about best practice for schools. The aim of OFSTED's survey was to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions that schools take to create a positive school culture and to prevent and tackle bullying. A large part of the survey focused on pupils' own experiences and understanding of bullying and its effects.
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