In brief

17th January 2003 at 00:00
Bullying: effective strategies for long-term improvement By David Thompson, Tiny Aurora and Sonia Sharp RoutledgeFalmer pound;16.99

The publisher intends this book (one of a new series, Schools' Concerns) to bridge the gap between highly academic books and those that "oversimplify and trivialise what is likely to be a complex issue". The first section provides a very detailed analysis of research into pupil bullying in schools (a topic hardly touched on before 1980). There are definitions of bullying, accounts of possible causes, and case studies of anti-bullying strategies. Part two then describes possible methods for effective intervention.

This is a book for school managers who want to set bullying in a detailed context or develop a strategy based on careful analysis of research. Some of its more useful features are given in the appendix: an admirable, usable life-in-school checklist to help schools audit the extent of bullying. Interesting as I found this book, I'm not entirely convinced by its rationale. Bullying requires a considered response, but the depth of analysis here goes beyond what most of us in schools would find useful. It reads, inevitably, like a book for researchers rather than practitioners, much as we would like to think that the two roles can be merged.

How to Stop Bullying in your School: a guide for teachers By George Varnava David Fulton pound;15

George Varnava's book takes an entirely practical approach. Its methods are rooted in an intervention programme called Towards a Non-Violent Society: Checkpoints for Schools. The author, a former headteacher, instils a sense of urgent pragmatism. He begins by describing the extent of bullying in schools and then explores the language of aggression that we easily take for granted (workplace gossip becomes "backstabbing", political rivalry is reported as "character assassination", business competition as "cut-throat", and so on). There are checklists for action, an excellent self-audit questionnaire to assess current practice, and guidance on measuring progress in countering bullying. At the heart of the approach is a commitment to involving staff, parents and students.

Varnava makes a convincing and fascinating case, but at times the highly specific context of the book is also its weak point. Some sections felt less relevant, such as the outline letter to the press from a school complaining about coverage, or the account of a "typical day" in one (anonymous) school. Overall, though, this is an eminently helpful guide to a complex issue.

Geoff Barton is headteacher at King Edward VI school, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

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