Education in Spite of Policy
Supporting Schools against Bullying
The second SCRE anti-bullying pack
Edinburgh: Scottish Council for Research in Education 1994
£10.00 ISBN 0-947833-781
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 1994
Note (August 2018) I apologise for the absence of page references in this review.
This is the second anti-bullying pack from SCRE. The first, Action Against Bullying, was published in 1992 and was distributed to all schools in the United Kingdom. It concentrated on raising awareness among teaching staff and developing a school policy. It is still available at £6.00.
This new pack, Supporting Schools Against Bullying, is about involving everyone in anti-bullying action with a special focus on families, parents' groups and non-teaching staff. The pack contains two booklets and photocopiable materials.
The larger booklet, School Action Against Bullying: involving parents and non-teaching staff provides guidance for head teachers on involving the whole-school community in the school's anti-bullying policy. It has been written by Pamela Munn, who has led a number of studies on aspects of school management and discipline-related problems. She is Deputy Director at SCRE.
The smaller booklet, Bullying and How to Fight It: a guide for families, is by Andrew Mellor. He is a teacher experienced in the problems of bullying and is currently Anti-Bullying Development Officer (Scotland). This booklet is available separately at £3.25 (discounts are available on bulk orders).
The three sets of photocopiable materials are: 'Scenario' (discussion starters for training sessions); Information on publications and useful organisations; and ways of finding out about bullying in your school.
Pamela Munn's booklet is commendably concise. It contains an invaluable distillation of current knowledge on the problem of bullying and offers a wide range of practical actions which schools can take.
She urges schools not to think in stereotypes - it is too easy to label children and their parents. She underlines the importance of encouraging victims and witnesses to speak up: secrecy and silence nurture bullying and all incidents should be taken seriously. She points out that the single most effective thing a school can do is to have an active policy which makes it clear that bullying will not be tolerated. Head Teachers are seen as key figures whose active support and leadership is essential if bullying is to be tackled effectively.
It is possible to map potential bullying trouble spots - this helps to avoid incidents. There are various way of doing this, ways which include asking parents, pupils and non-teaching staff to participate in collecting information - but also letting them know about how the information they supply is being used.
Teachers are reminded that they are taken as role models for behaviour by pupils and also by non-teacher adults in schools. This is an extremely important point, as teachers can sometimes inadvertently legitimate bullying by their own attitudes.
Andrew Mellor's booklet for families is intended to be used as part of collective school action but also provides excellent information and advice for those who may have difficulties in persuading the school to take their concern seriously. (Such schools he describes, rather aptly, as 'ostrich schools' and quotes an assistant head teacher as saying 'I do not think bullying is a big problem in this school. I do not think we need to do more work on it.') He urges anyone who is worried that someone is being bullied to get in touch with the school and - if necessary - to be persistent.
He emphasises that talking is the only way to stop bullying so that everyone understands how others feel and he suggests that honesty, openness and involvement are three key factors in improving schools.
Anyone can become the victim of bullying - bullies try to justify what they do by saying the victim is different but people have a right to be different and if a real difference does not exist the bully will usually invent one.
Children often feel that it must be their own fault if they are bullied and find it hard to tell their parents - therefore families need to trust their instincts and talk and listen to their children. The photocopiable materials are of good quality. Some would be useful for staff and governor training, others would form a valuable resource for a programme of work in Personal and Social Education.
Like many others, my own school has done a lot of work on bullying (I have written about it in previous issues of Forum) but there is always more to be done and I believe that schools will find this pack an invaluable tool in the ongoing task of combating the scourge of bullying. I can imagine that parents' associations might well want to buy a set of copies of the families booklet. I warmly commend it to all schools and hope that it may be possible for it to be distributed free in the same way as the first pack was.
Note (2014) The Scottish Council for Research in Education was disbanded some years ago.
This review was first published in Forum 36(3) Autumn 1994 94-95.