Watch out, there's a bully about - just here

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
One of the top graduates from Glasgow School of Art has shown that pictures can be more effective than words when pupils are asked to identify the bullying hot spots of a school.

Fiona Clark, who was awarded the Newbery Medal from the GSA for her photographic projects on a range of school issues, has now attracted the endorsement of the Anti-Bullying Network, based at Edinburgh University.

Miss Clark, who is about to enter the PGCE course at Strathclyde University's Jordanhill campus to train as an art teacher, took these striking images to illustrate areas of school where children felt most vulnerable to bullying.

"I wasn't sure how to tackle it initially. I didn't want it to be about victims of the bullies themselves. I wanted to find a way of tackling it or showing them in another light, so I started to look at the actual spaces where pupils are bullied in schools," she said.

Pupils in an S1 personal and social education class were asked to colour-code maps of their school. Red showed the areas where they knew bullying happened and they were scared; blue was for parts of the school where they knew bullying happened but they weren't scared; and green indicated safe areas.

The red areas were: toilets, stairs, round corners, changing-rooms, underneath the trees, places that were just out of sight of teachers - and the "wee nooks and crannies" in the building.

One pupil coloured the whole school red, Miss Clark said - as the exercise was anonymous it was impossible to identify which child felt scared and unhappy everywhere they went.

Initially, the school participated only on the understanding that it would not be identified. However, after staff at Hamilton College - an independent school in Hamilton - saw the quality of her work and the sensitive way she tackled the issue, they agreed to go public.

"It was not a negative thing. I was just saying that we have to open our eyes to bullying," Miss Clark said. "I think the school realised that by highlighting it in PSE lessons, it makes everyone aware of it instead of pretending that bullying does not go on. Everyone knows that it goes on everywhere.

"The locations in my book of photographs show one particular school - they are synonymous with all schools in Scotland."

Andrew Mellor, network manager of the Anti-Bullying Network, said: "We will be putting something on our website advocating the ideas that Fiona Clark has used within the project. The idea that you might use a map is not new - geography teachers have sometimes given kids maps and asked them to draw areas of the school that were safe and unsafe. The important thing about that approach is involving members of the school community who might not see the issue of bullying as part of their main job.

"Fiona has taken this a step farther and brought in her artistic experience, but photos could be done by someone internal in the school as well. They would make greater starters for discussion."

Miss Clark's final-year honours project included an exploration of school uniform and the idea of personal expression and identity - taken at her old school Dalziel High, in Motherwell, and at Overtown primary, near Wishaw.

Her next idea was a light-hearted look at something quite serious - why so many pupils (mainly girls) dislike physical education. When she asked what put them off PE, many said they didn't like getting changed in smelly changing rooms with inadequate privacy. Others said they didn't get on with the teacher and some just didn't see the point of it.

She took the PE pictures at Dalziel High and Bellshill Academy. Bellshill had single-sex classes for PE and she found that fewer pupils sat them out.

For her final project, on the impact of school on the children of asylum-seekers, she went to Elmvale primary in the Springburn area of Glasgow. She played a game with the children to find out what school meant to them, writing a number of questions on folded-up pieces of paper and asking the children to pick one and write an answer.

"Initially I thought the answers would probably be quite negative because a lot of the press have been quite negative. I thought they might have felt quite isolated and that the language might have been a problem, but it ended up quite a positive thing," she said.

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