Keeping an eye on bullying

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Vigilance is a word that crops up often when Douglas Follen, acting head at Drummond Community High in Edinburgh, talks about bullying.

Over the past 20 years, he has helped build an anti-bullying stance into the very fabric of the school and its curriculum. Staff and pupils are taught from day one to be vigilant and intolerant of any such behaviour at all times.

Yet that hasn't stopped him and his team embracing Anti-bullying Week (November 27-December 1, as deemed by children's charities across Britain) and using it as vehicle to highlight much of the work going on within the school. On Monday, the S2s at the school spent the day working with drama students from Queen Margaret's University in Edinburgh.

During the week, the winners of a poetry competition for seniors, about bullying, were announced and a series of nine designs, made by S1s and S2s, were chosen to be turned into badges, posters and a cover for the poems.

"Anti-bullying Week is a good thing, and we were able to make valuable use of the pack issued last year," says Mr Follen. "However, you can't be complacent. You have to be vigilant all year and create an ethos where the students feel able to report all incidences."

Last year, the school reported seven complaints of bullying to Edinburgh council, but Mr Follen does not see this as negative. "I would be very concerned about any school that turned in zero reports," he says. "I want my students to know that we will listen to any complaint and take them seriously."

The school is looking at ways to make it easier to report incidents or concerns, by making a facility available on the internet for those too frightened to report problems in person.

Much of the anti-bullying work done in the school is led by Pauline Cumming, acting depute and convener of the school's behaviour management group, which has a specific anti-bullying sub-group. It is this group that will develop the new online reporting system, and is responsible for ensuring all issues regarding discrimination, racism and bullying are addressed throughout the curriculum.

It also helps organise special events. This week was the turn of the S2s, a group that Ms Cumming admits has its challenges when dealing with bullying.

Through a series of workshops with the university students, they were able to explore the causes and impact of bullying.

But it is not just through creative arts that bullying is highlighted.

During the week, Drummond launched a school-wide consultation on the subject. "I asked the pupil council if they thought the students would like to consult on what the problems are and what some of the solutions could be and they said yes," says Ms Cumming.

"I began consulting with groups of two students from every tutor group.

They will then feed into a new leaflet on bullying for the school, which we will make available to all students and visitors."

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