WATCH: Teachers asked to open up about being bullied

Teachers talk about depression and self-harm on video to encourage their pupils to speak out about bullying

Catherine Lough

Ofsted could change what its draft inspection framework says about bullying.

A school that produced a video of teachers speaking up about their experiences of bullying has advised other schools to do the same as a way of helping their “most vulnerable” students.

Pupils at Perins School in Alresford, Hampshire, were shown a video of teachers describing their experiences of bullying, with some staff members reporting that their experiences had made them depressed or led them to self-harm.

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Teachers were afraid that pupils would "take the mickey" when they were shown the film in assembly. But instead, they sat in complete silence.

And the school has had very positive feedback from children, as well as parents who were bullied themselves.

Melanie Cotton, the school’s anti-bullying coordinator and director of music, said she “definitely” recommended other schools trying this approach to help pupils speak up about bullying, but cautioned that schools had to handle the issue “delicately”.

The video showed four teachers, including Ms Cotton, recounting their experiences of being bullied at school and university.

Drama teacher Andee Jordan spoke tearfully of bullies who would “deliberately turn away from me, they would hide my work, they would deface my work”.

At the time, her parents were going through a divorce and her mother had left home. Ms Jordan began to feel that “I was the one to blame for it” and started to self-harm.

It was only when her drama teacher asked her how she was that she was able to open up.

Ms Cotton also appeared in the video, describing her encounter with a bully at university, who she said was “the most toxic person I have ever met in my life”.

She told Tes: “I definitely think other schools should do this. It has changed how students see us.”

“Students have said it made them cry, and that they did not think teachers would have gone through that. They thought their teachers were confident adults.

“It’s led them to empathise with staff, which is very unusual – we are asked to empathise with them but it’s rare for pupils to empathise with us. They have said ‘it’s made you more human’, which is funny, because of course we are – but they don’t see that, because we tell them off and give them detention.”

However, she warned that the issue had to be approached sensitively so that staff were not “put in a vulnerable position”.

Ms Cotton said reactions from parents had also been very positive, as adults were more likely to realise the courage it took to speak about these experiences with a group of children.

And she hoped that the video would help pupils who were being bullied to speak to one of their teachers.

“The whole onus of opening up is on the student – it’s this horrible situation where the weakest and most vulnerable have to be strong and speak up.”

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