Block punches by taking them seriously

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON BULLYING. By Ken Rigby. Jessica Kingsley pound;16.95

STOP THE BULLYING: a handbook for students. By Ken Rigby. Jessica Kingsley pound;15.95

BULLYING: a whole-school approach. By Amelia Suckling and Carla Temple. Foreword by Ken Rigby. Jessica Kingsley pound;24.95

We tend to think of bullying in terms of unhappy children - after all, the protection of children is surely society's top priority. But there are many adults around who carry the consequences of what happened to them at school. There's a song from the Seventies by Janis Ian called "At Seventeen". Its message - that not all teenagers are happy, handsome and well-adjusted - is close to home for those who discovered as they grew up that bullying takes many forms ("Those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball") and isn't always clearly labelled.

The song, in its own way, supports Ken Rigby, when he quotes in New Perspectives on Bullying Australian writer Les Murray's belief that there is a huge hidden population of people whose ability to make intimate relationships was permanently damaged when they were young: "Folk for whom the sexual revolution remains a chimera, the ones whose sexual morale was destroyed early by scorn, by childhood trauma, by fashion, by lack or defection of allies, by image." The point, writes Rigby, is not that such people are unattractive, but that they have been made to think they are.

For children, of course, the consequences of bullying are immediate, and work directly on classwork and attitudes, promoting ill-health and consequent absence from school.

New Perspectives on Bullying reviews just about everything that's known about the problem. It confirms that being bullied can damage the mental health of teenagers, for example. It also challenges some assumptions - the discussion of the bully's personality and mentalemotional skills, for example, is as fascinating as it is complicated. The final chapter, "Beyond Blame", is an absorbing essay on the deeply complicated relationship between school, family, bully and victim, looking at when and where blame is useful or counter-productive.

In the more practical handbook Stop the Bullying, Rigby develops a set of guidelines, supported by photocopiable sheets, for developing an anti-bullying policy. It begins by looking at definitions of bullying - the what, when and who - victims, bullies, onlookers. The meat of the book - 20 short sections - deals with "Action to Counter Bullying", from "setting goals" through "talking with students in class about bullying", to "advice for parents". The approach throughout is to insist on taking the problem seriously - that's the first obstacle that many schools have to overcome - but also to acknowledge that it's not a simple matter of "cracking down" on bullies.

Bullying, by Amelia Suckling and Carla Temple, which has a foreword by Rigby, develops many of Rigby's ideas (with others) into a resource that's more classroom-oriented, with lots of teaching ideas, suggestions for role-play, techniques for victims to use, and photocopiable worksheets. There's welcome recognition of the need to encourage bystanders in supportive behaviour.

Together, these books add up to an inclusive resource that should be helpful to any school.

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