Education in Spite of Policy
A Community Approach to Bullying
Peter Randall, 1996
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 1996
Bullying has been a big issue for the last ten years. Research projects have investigated the causes of bullying behaviour, the variety of its manifestations and its effects on the victims. Conferences have been held and many books have been published on the subject. The focus of much of this work has been the school. This is hardly surprising, since most people associate bullying with children and, therefore, with schools. A number of well-publicised cases of extreme bullying - some even ending in the death of the victim - have supported the view that the school is the natural centre of bullying activities.
Experts in the field have long acknowledged, however, that, whilst manifestations of bullying among the young inevitably often occur at school - after all, it is in school that young people come into close proximity with one another - the causes of bullying and the examples of bullying behaviour from which young people learn are often outside the school. And bullying is not the prerogative of the young - adults bully and are bullied, too.
Peter Randall's book therefore takes a wider look at bullying and suggests ways in which communities can tackle it. In his Preface he states There is a dangerous myth circulating amongst confident adults that bullying is a kids game played in school and if ever adults do complain of being bullied or victimised or harassed, then they are just weak people who cant take pressure. The first chapter of his book Schools are not to blame explores this in more detail, discussing what bullying is, the characteristics of bullies and victims and the consequences of bullying. The second chapter investigates the development of early aggression. This is a useful chapter, dealing with how children learn aggressive behaviour and how they learn to cope with it from birth onwards. A particularly interesting section looks at the beliefs held by parents of aggressive children and their attitudes to school and education. The chapter also discusses inappropriate and inadequate parenting, an important cause of much aggressive behaviour in children.
The remainder of the book is a detailed description of the sort of project which could be set up in and by local communities and is based on projects with which Peter Randall himself has been involved. Some of the work relates directly to schools, some of it concerns the wider community. There is an enormous amount of material here, much of it very helpful. Some of it is rather technical: there is much talk of Steering Committees, Implementation Groups and Monitoring and Evaluation Groups. But there is also helpful advice on conducting bully audits in the school and the community, using the local media and setting up counselling and telecounselling services.
One of the most useful aspects of the book is the reference section. Peter Randall includes a list of helpful resources, a sample anti-bullying policy, guidelines for writing a pamphlet for parents, a checklist for a whole school approach to bullying, the implications of bullying for the curriculum, some strategies which school staff could initiate and finally a very exhaustive list of useful books.
Glancing through the book again, I am amazed at the amount of valuable material which Peter Randall has managed to include, from theories of the causes of bullying behaviour to the practicalities of organising a community project. £14.95 may seem fairly expensive for a paperback but you certainly get your money's worth.
I feel I must say, however, that you also get a large number of errors in the text. I counted sixty-one, including typing and/or spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The most annoying are where a word has been omitted, necessitating the re-reading of the sentence to try to ascertain its meaning (for example, 'it is also difficult to how to conceptualise the people these professionals are empowering' page 106), or where the wrong word has been used - 'in' instead of 'is', for example. 'Practice' and 'practise' are confused. I do hope that these errors are corrected in any future editions of the book - they are extremely irritating and distract the reader from what is, otherwise, an excellent book.
This review was published in Forum 39(1) Spring 1997 30.