Education in Spite of Policy
Bullying in Schools And what to do about it
Ken Rigby, 1996
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 1997
Bullying in schools has become an issue of great concern to all those involved in education. The pioneer in this field - back in the 1970s - was Dan Olweus of Norway and the success of his early work has informed the work of many others. In this country, Peter Smith, Helen Cowie and Sonia Sharp, among others, have led important projects.
Any new book on the subject must therefore present new information or suggest new ways of tackling the problem if it is to avoid simply regurgitating what others have already said.
This is just such a book. For a start, Ken Rigby's research is based on his work in Australian schools and this gives it a different perspective, though many of the problems have resonances in other cultures. Then there is the sheer quantity of his research - involving twenty thousand students - which gives the book an authority that inspires confidence. Thirdly, he seeks to do more than 'provide a list of things which might work: a manual or tool-kit optimistically designed to remove bullying from the school environment'. He attempts to understand what bullying is, why some children bully others, and why some children are bullied. And finally, his advice is very practical.
The book is divided into two main sections. In the first, 'Understanding Bullying', he discusses definitions and forms, explains what his research indicates about students' and teachers' perceptions of the problem and looks at the consequences of bullying. He poses the question 'Is bullying understandable?' and seeks to answer it by reference to the family, the culture and the school ethos.
The second part of the book is concerned with what to do about bullying. He stresses that there is no simple answer - each school must work out its own policy and devise strategies which will be owned by the students, staff and parents. Commonly, these strategies fall into three main categories: moralistic (stating the school's position and expecting students to conform), legalistic (e.g. School Bully Courts) and - his preferred option - humanistic. He describes the 'No Blame' Approach, the Method of 'Shared Concern' and Peer Counselling and considers their advantages and disadvantages.
Ken Rigby's book is different, interesting and readable. I recommend it to anyone concerned about the problem of bullying in schools.
This review was published in Educational Review 50(1) February 1998 86-7.