Test to bully-proof pupils

15th February 2008 at 00:00
Mental toughness questionnaire aims to give teachers tools to boost achievement.

Pupils in Wales could be tested on their mental toughness in a bid to help them shrug off bullying and improve results.

Wrexham-based research consultant AQR has developed a 48-question sheet which has already been piloted at Halewood College in Knowsley, near Liverpool.

Now AQR managing director Doug Strycharczyk plans to approach education minister Jane Hutt to see if it can be rolled out across Wales.

The questions are based around four themes: facing up to challenges; feeling in control; levels of confidence; and commitment.

The Knowsley pupils were shown statements such as: "I usually speak my mind when I have something to say," and asked to mark them on a scale from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree".

Mr Strycharczyk said that those who scored highly also did better in their cognitive ability tests at school. "There was a direct relationship between the two," he said.

The same pupils were less likely to perceive themselves as being bullied than those who scored lower in the questionnaire.

The study revealed that teachers often perceived "mentally tough" girls as showing "negative behaviour". Researchers said this may be because they were not conforming to stereotypical views of how young women should behave.

Teachers were then told about the outcomes so they could use the information to help improve confidence - and ultimately results - in the less mentally tough children.

The pupils will be monitored for further improvements when they take their GCSEs this summer.

Mr Strycharczyk said: "We could go direct to interested schools in Wales, but we are keen to ask Ms Hutt if she thinks it would be worthwhile using these tests now."

Psychologist Peter Clough, who used to work at AQR, devised the questionnaire drawing on his work with athletes and industry. Now head of psychology at Hull University, he plans to help develop the test in Wales.

More confident pupils are able to dismiss incidents of perceived bullying easily, while more timid children can find them very upsetting.

Phil Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said the test could be a useful tool in Welsh schools. But he said problems such as bullying also needed to be dealt with through teachers talking to pupils.

He added: "I would give it a cautious welcome but would like to see it tested more rigorously."

An Assembly government spokesperson said: "There are many factors which contribute to pupil achievement. The minister is always interested in new developments and research."

Cyberbullying, pages 16-17; 27

Leader, page 28.

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