Brace yourself for trouble

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Angela Piddock looks at resources tackling racism and bullying

The Skin I'm In: A First Look At Racism. Is It Right to Fight?: A First Look At Conflict. By Pat Thomas. Hodder Wayland, pound;5.99 each

Talking About Bullying. By Bruce Sanders. Franklin Watts, pound;10.99

Why Do People Bully?. By Adam Hibbert. Hodder Wayland, pound;11.99

What Have I Ever Done to You?. By Robert Higgs. Pegasus, pound;6.99

Solutions To Bullying. By Sue Young. NASEN, pound;7.50

Stop Bullying In Your School. By George Varnava. David Fulton, pound;17

Throwing Stones. by Clive Billingham. Leicestershire Constabulary Media Services, pound;30. Tel: 0116 248 4979

If too many children still have lives blighted by racism and bullying in their myriad manifestations, they are not nowadays - except perhaps in the murkiest pockets of the education and care systems - required to suffer in silence. All these books indicate that mainstream attitudes at least have changed: bullying is no longer seen as part of the pain of growing up, to be endured without complaint by all but the wimpish. Like racism, it is no longer a taboo subject. It can be and is discussed, even with very young children.

Pat Thomas's information books are from a series for the youngest age group, dealing with personal, social and emotional issues. They do this in a straightforward way, with illustrations that complement the text. At intervals the reader is asked if he or she has experienced what is described and is invited to talk about feelings and possible solutions.

There are useful notes at the back suggesting ways parents and teachers can explore the issues further .

The books work at several levels - as a clear and reassuring way of presenting the issues of conflict and racism to young children; as tools for initiating discussion and supporting children and adults in understanding their own feelings and those of others; and by exploring ways of dealing with them.

Talking About Bullying takes a sensible look at what bullying is, why people do it, and ways to stop it; and provides practical advice for primary age children on how bullying can be dealt with at school and at home. It also lists help-line numbers and addresses and suggests useful further reading and websites. This book will give both the bullied and the bully food for thought. Why Do People Bully? does the same for older primary and secondary children, and also provides links to useful websites.

Robert Higgs's What Have I Ever Done To You? is more a self-help manual based on the premise that it is the victim who can stop the bullying. It could provide an adolescent with the sort of advice and encouragement that might stop him or her being a victim.

Solutions To Bullying and Stop Bullying In Your School take it for granted that schools want to stamp out bullying, and set out to equip teachers with the means to do so. They both describe strategies that have proved successful and emphasise the importance of establishing an environment in which bullying is seen as unacceptable. George Varnava's book is more ambitious, and its scope wider, spending more time discussing the prevalence of violence in society and how good practice in schools can be extended into the wider community.

Solutions to Bullying is focused and direct. Many schools may well be using some of the strategies outlined. This is its strength, making the self-evaluation process less daunting and the solution visibly attainable.

The emphasis is on the solution and steps to get there, starting with the promotion of an anti-bullying ethos and progressing to effective intervention. It finishes with a useful checklist of policies and procedures showing how the strategies used, in particular the support group approach, fit into the curriculum and a clear statement of the school's responsibility to promote the wellbeing of its students. This helpful book does not minimise the difficulties connected with dealing with bullying.

George Varnava offers some salutary comparisons with attitudes to young people and violence in other European countries and the greater depth provides a good source of information, discussion points and statistics.

Its prescription for the creation of a bullying-free environment involves a self-audit which results in an unduly complicated "checkpoint web".

Nevertheless, both these books would be useful additions to a staff library.

Racist bullying is particularly pernicious in that it has an impact beyond the individual involved. The Throwing Stones resource pack consists of a video and teaching guide and is aimed at children aged 9-13. There is a complete scene-by-scene script of the video and photographs of key moments.

The video shows two Year 6 friends, one white and the other Asian, who get caught up in a sequence of events that create a rift between them. The video shows two particularly distressing incidents of bullying, one involving a young child, another a woman. The teaching notes are detailed and provide a structure for using the video and discussing the issues raised. The activities are aimed at engaging children's feelings with the actual incidents portrayed and go on to explore racist incidents.

The appendices remind us of the legal context and schools'

responsibilities, as well as dealing with terminology. This pack gives the reasons why schools must tackle racist bullying overtly and provides them with the means to do so.

= Angela Piddock is head of Wilberforce Primary School, Westminster

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