Available from Tom Sanderson, St Andrews College, Duntocher Road, Bearsden, Glasgow G61 4QA
The traditional view of bullying is that it's something children do to each other in schools that you can't do much about, and which is almost a natural part of growing up. Remember Tom Brown's Schooldays?
Fortunately, views like this are becoming archaic and schools are realising that bullying is something that they need to address because it causes misery and affects the well-being and academic performance of young people. A Department for Education circular last year, "Pupil Behaviour and Discipline" (894), drew attention to the issue and said that "school staff must act . . . firmly against bullying wherever and whenever it appears".
Kevin Brown, youth strategy worker with Lothian Regional Council's Department of Social Work, goes further than this. He believes that bullying is not just confined to schools or young people it pervades society. Bullies and victims should not be seen as people, rather as roles that we all play from time to time.
There's another role that's just as important that of the watcher, who colludes with, and helps, perpetuate the bullying cycle. These, and other, ideas all form the basis of Bully No More! and To Bully No More! the Pupil Pack.
Kevin Brown is a champion of the use of small group work in schools, because of the way it can "help pupils relate more effectively to each other and staff, but also help reduce the amount of pupil disaffection and the number of exclusions". He is also impressed by the work of Barbara Maines and George Robinson on bullying in the south west of England and decided to bring the two areas together.
In 1992, he initiated work on a whole-school approach to bullying with a Scottish secondary school, St David's High School in Dalkeith. They had done a survey on the subject the previous year, and discovered that 26 per cent of first years had experienced bullying, much of it in the name-calling or "slagging" category.
Bully No More! is a record of what St David's High School did. Training sessions were held for the whole school staff and also for a smaller group of teaching staff and non-school staff from areas such as social work, educational psychology, education welfare and community education. Work included exploring thoughts and feelings about bullying and examining a positive approach for dealing with it.
The smaller group then worked on planning a Bully No More! event for the first year group of 160 pupils. Teachers and non-school staff worked in pairs with groups of 15 pupils on activities which helped them think about all aspects of bullying, strategies to prevent it and ways of supporting each other when it does occur.
Both the staff training programme and the pupil event are described in detail in the booklet. Bully No More! is partly a record of what went on in the school, but it is also a model for other schools who are serious about taking on this important work. It is most definitely not an off-the-shelf package that can be implemented immediately.
In To Bully No More! the Pupil Pack, Kevin Brown has devised a programme of classroom work on bullying suitable for 10 to 13-year-olds in primary, secondary and special schools. The material covers: What is Bullying? Who is involved? Role-swapping; How do we feel? The Rescuing Indifferent Punishing Syndrome; Assertiveness breaking the bullying cycle; Supporting People. Each section uses a short video snippet, group work and worksheets where appropriate.
The second video is for staff, covering the theoretical basis of the pack and highlighting aspects of the work to be done with pupils.
I believe that this pack is unique in bringing together the topic of bullying with work about feelings and assertiveness. The no-blame approach stresses everyone's responsibility in tackling the problem and that includes staff just as much as pupils. Only schools that are willing to make a long-term commitment to this kind of work should even begin to look at it. There are no easy answers.