The Contemporary Issue Of Bullying Education Essay
The contemporary issue I have focused upon in this assignment is Bullying. This is a prevalent issue in today’s society. I feel this is of great importance especially with the concerns arising from recent research into the effects of bullying. This research indicates that bullying can have social, physical and psychological effects on students as well as on their academic success.
What is bullying
Bullying is a social phenomenon that is not easy to define. It is a behaviour that can be either be physical/verbal or direct/indirect. A bully is defined in the dictionary as “a person, who hurts, intimidates or persecutes someone who is perceived to be different or weaker”.
The Government defines bullying as ‘Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’. Dan Olweus a leading expert in this field has a similar definition to the governments and he asserts that “A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative action on the part of one or more other student’ (Olweus, 1993 p.9)
The most widely used definition however is one that is developed by Olweus ( 993) and extended by Whitney and Smith (1993, p.7):“We say a child or young person is being bullied, or picked on when another child or young person, or a group of children or young people, say nasty and unpleasant things to him or her. It is also bullying when a child or a young person is hit, kicked, threatened, locked inside a room, sent nasty notes, when no- one ever talks to them and things like that. These things can happen frequently and it is difficult for the child or the young person being bullied to defend himself or herself. It is also bullying when a child or young person is teased repeatedly in a nasty way. But it is not bullying when two children or young people of about the same strength have the odd fight or quarrel”.
Different type of bullying
The word bullying is used to describe many diffident types of violent or intimidating behaviour. Bullying is certainly not easy to classify but here are the main types that have been identified. The first is verbal bullying which is the most common bullying according to research. Childline reported that 56 percent of children that rang about bullying called about verbal bullying. This type of bullying includes name calling and gossiping. Name calling is the most prevalent form of bullying according to most studies. One child in the Childline research for 2007/08 stated “I am being bullied at school and feel no one likes me. I am always running to hide or cry on my own because I’m called names and am pulled at. I feel suicidal but I won’t do it”.
The second is physical bullying which involves the use of physical force such as hitting and pushing. This type of bullying is considered to be direct because it is intentionally focussed at the victim. In 2007/08 Childline reported that 53 percent of children and young people that called about bullying reported physical bullying. It can be identified through physical signs such as bodily harm although physical bullying does not always mean injury. Physical bullying can be a way of trying to humiliate the victim and show power over them.
The third is indirect verbal bullying and this kind of bullying involves hurtful and untruthful comments behind the victims back. It can include spreading of rumours, letters or notes or even graffiti. The last is Cyber-bullying which is the newest form of bullying identified and has become a concern in recent years. This is a technology-enabled bullying and involves bullying by means of chat rooms, instant messing, mobile phones or even emails. Research initiated as a part of the DCSF cyber-bullying campaign highlighted that thirty four percent of 12-15 year olds reported being subject to cyber-bullying. Similarly research carried out by Goldsmiths College for the Anti-bullying Alliance found that twenty two percent of 11-16 year olds had fallen victims to cyber-bullying.
Various studies have been undertaken on this subject but because of the subjects sensitive nature it is hard to determine solid, valid and reliable statistics. The research being completed however does highlight the true extent of the bullying problem in the classroom setting. Bullying is a contemporary issue with the first national survey on this subject being conducted relatively recently. Kidscape’s conducted the national survey between the years of 1984 and 1986 using a sample of 4000 children ages 5 to 12. The survey revealed the extent of the problem. The survey showed that 68% of the children had been bullied at least once, 39 percent had been bullied at least twice and 0.5% of those children felt it had affected their lives that substantially that they tried to commit suicide. Recent research also suggests that the problem is still prominent in the school setting. According to one recent study, one-fifth of primary school pupils and a quarter of pupils in Year 8 perceived bullying as a ‘big problem’ in their school.
A later report by ChildLine showed that 15 per cent of primary school children and 12 per cent of secondary school children said they had bullied in the last year (ChildLine2004). In another study, 50 per cent of severely bullied boys said that they bully others, as did 33 per cent of severely bullied girls. Childline the national helpline for children received between the months of April 2000 to march 2001 almost 20,300 calls from children and young people concerned about bullying. Kidscape another helpline believes it receives more that 16,000 calls from parents each year concerned about their children getting bullied.
Research has also suggested that Cyber-bullying which is the newest identified form of bullying is becoming a major problem. The number of Cyber-bullying cases is on the rise (Noret and Rivers, 2006). A study by National Centre for Social Research released to coincide with November 2009 Anti-bullying week revealed that Cyber-bullying is now one of the commonest forms of bullying in school. The Longitudinal study tracked 15,000 pupils who had their 14th birthday in 2004. The research also pointed out that 47% of 14-year-olds, 41% of 15-year-olds and 29% of 16-year-olds reported being bullied. Disabled children and children with special educational needs were also found to be more likely targets. This coincides with other such research that shows SEN children or children with disabilities are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied (Smith, 2007) The Longitudinal study also showed that children who reported being bullied went on to achieve on average 2 GCSE grades lower then children who were not bullied and were more likely to drop out of education at 16. This research is worrying and provides evidence of the detrimental effects bullying can have.
Effects of Bullying
Bullying can have all sorts of effects on children so it is important that bullying is tackled head on. The DfEE states that ‘The emotional distress caused by bullying in whatever form – be it racial, or as a result of a child’s appearance, behaviour or special educational needs, or related to sexual orientation, can prejudice school achievement, lead to lateness or truancy, and in extreme cases, end with suicide.’(DfEE, 1999: 24-25). Vernon Coaker the schools minister also asserted at the event for Anti-Bullying Week that “Bullying, in any form, should not be tolerated. It can destroy lives and have a lasting impact on young people’s confidence, self-esteem and emotional development.”
Research has indicated that bullying can not only effect academic achievement, it has also been linked with low self-esteem, anxiety, impaired concentration, truancy, depression and suicidal thoughts. Kidscape performed the first ever survey of adults with the aim of finding out if bullying had any lasting effects. The survey which was funded by the national lottery and proved that being badly bullied as a child had knock on affects. 46% nearly half of the survey population contemplated suicide compared with 7% of those who were not bullied. Most of the adults surveyed had little or no help at the time of the incidents.
Tackling school bullying
The Government in recent years has emphasised that tackling the problem of bullying is a main priority of theirs. The Government in 1999 said it was a legal obligation for all schools to have an anti bullying policy in place. Legislation places a duty on the head teacher to enforce an anti bullying policy and states that schools must encourage respect for others and prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. Government guidance additionally states that the policy should be reviewed annually and that every member of the school community (including children, young people, carers and parents) should be involved in this review.
Each school is in charge of designing their own policy with the help from Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). The DCSF help schools to design strategies and effective anti –bullying policy to tackle bullying head on. They do this by providing very comprehensive guidance documents and have regional advisers on hand who have expertise in this area to help implement their guidance.
Schools have a legal obligation to ensure measures are in place to address bullying:
Head teachers must enforce a policy as a preventative measure against bullying in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998.
The Standards & Frameworks Acts (1998) states that all schools are required by law to have an anti-bullying policy. Schools have statutory liability regarding behaviour of pupils under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 : ‘the head teacher shall determine measures to be taken with a view to ……… be encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils’.
Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that bullying policy should be in place in each school and every child should know what to do if they find them self in the situation where they are being bullied.
Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 states what is required of the governing bodies in relation to the wellbeing of the pupils in their school: ‘The governing body of a maintained school shall make arrangements for ensuring that their functions relating to the conduct of the school are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children who are pupils at the school.’
The Education Act 2002 lays down out two aims for the national curriculum, whereby schools must make sure that it ‘provides opportunities for all pupils to learn and achieve’ and ‘promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life’.
The DfES circular, Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular outlines government expectations and the legal duty of head teachers with regard to bullying
The National Health School Guidance asserts that it is necessary that schools have ‘a policy and code of practice for tackling bullying, which is owned, understood and implemented by all members of the school community and includes contact with external support agencies’.
Under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 schools are required to promote race equality.
Children’s Act (2004) sets out five outcomes that professionals should work towards. These are to; Be Healthy; Stay Safe; Enjoy and achieve; Make a positive contribution and Achieve economic well-being.
Safe to Learn: embedding anti-bullying work in schools is the new overarching anti-bullying guidance for schools which was introduced in September 2007. The safe to learn guidance includes advice on bullying.
In addition to this Ofsted’s framework for inspecting schools states that inspectors must assess and give an account on the magnitude and degree of bullying, racism and other forms of harassment. They must also report on the schools successfulness at dealing with bullying incidents and look at the schools relations with parents.
Schools are not immediately responsible for bullying that takes place outside of the educational setting but their anti-bullying policy should make it known that steps are in effect to respond to such incidents. The Government publicised two anti-bullying guidance documents on 15 April 2009. These documents gave advice on how to tackle bullying outside of the classroom setting. Versions of the guidance documents were also for local authorities, youth workers, college staff, play workers, transport providers and children's homes.
Despite all of this there is no law which states that Scottish schools must have a specific anti-bullying policy. However there have been documents such as "Action Against Bullying" distributed to Scottish schools in 1992 that recommend that they should implement a policy. Scottish local authorities have approved of this recommendation but it isn’t really enough.
Other available help
As well as the legislation and guidance documents there are other avenues of support and guidance. Schools for one can pledge their allegiance to tackling bullying by signing up to the Anti-bullying charter whereby there can self-assess their bullying policy.
An anti-bullying week is also held every year by the Anti-bullying Alliance The anti bullying Alliance was established in July 2002 by NSPCC and NCB, it has combined 68 organisations into one association. Their aim is to reduce bullying and create a safe environment for which children can study. Anti bullying weeks aim is to raise awareness of bullying and the issues that surround it. This year's Anti-Bullying Week was focused on tackling cyber-bullying. Sue Steel, National Manager of the Anti-Bullying Alliance , said on the 2009 anti-bullying week that: “It is very encouraging that the Government is doing so much to make Anti-Bullying Week a real success. We all need to work in partnership to ensure children, young people and their parents are aware of the risks of cyber bullying and know how to prevent it”
There are also various websites to help both parents and adults such as the DirectGov website which has plenty of advice for young people concerned about bullying. Parentline Plus has a helpline for parents, provides support through the Be Someone to Tell webpage and a website for parental advice on dealing with bullying of their child. A comprehensive list of organisations that provide both help and support concerning bullying is available in Annex I of the overarching Safe to learn guidance.
Developing a whole-school approach
The whole school approach is recommended by the DfES and works by engaging involving the whole school community from pupils and teachers to staff, carers and parents. This approach works by involving everyone and creating a framework that endorses shared beliefs and values that help to counteract and reduce bullying effectively. The framework sets out steps to advise and manage incidents of bullying. The DfES recommends launching this whole-school policy in four phases: awareness and consultation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The policy should aim to:
Ensure that the whole school community understands bullying and what is meant by bullying.
Make it understandable that bullying will not be accepted inside or outside of the school setting.
Create an effective system to deal with bullying incidents that enables children to easily report bullying occurrences.
Ensure that all incidents reported are investigated seriously and the measures in place are acted upon in response.
That clearly defined procedures are in place.
Provide a systematic method of recording incidents that take place this in turn can help in evaluating and reviewing policy.
Have a peer support programme in place.
Continually review procedures and policy and keep the whole school community informed of any changes or revamps.
Anti-bullying Policy Case Study
In my small case study I looked at 3 anti-bullying policy’s for schools in the Surrey area. I would first like to note that out of the 5 websites I viewed, two did not have any anti-bullying policy online. Anti- bullying policy should be readily available for the school community and should be online for easy access for the whole school community. I will address the schools as A, B and C.
School A had a very comprehensive Anti-bullying strategy in place using the whole school approach. It clearly defined anti-bullying procedure in place for children staff and parents using headings such as ‘guidance for children’. The Policy included an effectives system clearly stating each stage of procedure and using the no blame approach. School A also asserted that all incidents would be recorded and used in further cases if needed. The use of a peer support strategy was also in place which seems to add to the policies effectiveness as these systems have been found to be effective in reducing the negative effects of bullying for victims. This policy was said to have been reviewed in 2009 and was to be reviewed on a regular basis which again seemed excellent practice. School A’s policy was seemed precise and effective using the whole school community and in doing so promoting a shared set of values and beliefs. The fact it is reviewed on a regular basis makes sure the policy is fresh and effective. This school also had regular newsletters with any new updates on anti-bullying strategies or changes in policy these were in turn clearly published online.
School B’s policy had a clear precise definition of bullying but however it was not as comprehensive as School A. The policy did show the procedure in place and stated the support in place for children; it however was aimed at staff and parents only and did not involve the whole school community. The policy had clearly not been reviewed in some time as it was dated May 2005 which is nearly 5 years ago and seemed outdated and forgotten. School C’s policy was just appalling; it consisted of a paragraph about the definition of bullying and a list of behaviour codes. It did promote a shared value on the expected codes of behaviour but no set clear process in place for dealing of bullying for staff, children or parents.
Is the government’s strategy working?
There is not much in the way of research into this field and whether anti- bullying policy is effective or not. Bullying has decreased slightly since the previous year which could be a reflection of the change in government policy and promotion of peer support but really it is not a decrease in incidents. I conducted a small scale survey of 8 teaching assistants and teachers in schools around the UK to find out whether they felt the government were doing enough in relation to bullying.
''U.K government is doing enough for schools in relation to bullying" How do you feel about this statement?
The results show that 42% disagreed with the statement that the government was doing enough in relation to bullying, 17% were neutral and 8% agreed. This survey just indicates that people within the school context feel more can be done to stop bullying. One participant even stated ‘There are anti bullying programs in place at schools but the children often do not come forward. The Government could work with the schools to make it easier for children to come forward.’
Bullying UK’S CEO, John Carnell was reported saying "These figures are disgraceful and show that the government and schools are just not getting to grips with this problem.
Bullying UK was founded 10 years ago and the problems we are seeing now are the same ones we saw 10 years ago. Day in, day out, year in, year out, we are receiving exactly the same complaints from desperate parents and children and it's a scandal that there is no government funding for the vital work we do which we know saves suicidal children's lives."
In the Childline case notes one counsellor asserts “I don’t think things have changed,” and “ when you ask the children whether there are anti-bullying policies the children say yes, but it still makes you powerless. The frustrating thing is that we still receive so many calls about bullying”
What can schools do to tackle bullying?
Research has proven that the whole school approach is the most effective strategy and recommended by the DfES. The whole school community should be involved in devising and implementing an anti-bullying policy. It requires everyone to maintain and advocate the standards in the policy and act promptly when incidents occur. This approach promotes shared values and beliefs and enables a clear understanding of the acceptable standards of behaviour. In Wales, Lambert, Scourfield, Smalley and Jones (in press) found a significant association between lower levels of bullying, and pupils reporting that the school had clear rules on bullying. The law does state that behaviour policy should be publicised to the school community once a year although really it should be communicated a lot more then this to refresh minds.
Research has indicated that just having an anti-bullying policy alone is not enough. In order for a policy to be effective it needs to be efficiently implemented, reviewed and evaluated constantly. As for instance one study found that school-wide policies decline in effectiveness over a 2-3 year period, after which time bullying increases (Sharp et al, 2002). Smith states “Bullying is an ongoing problem, so a ‘one-off’ effort over a term or a year without continuation will have little or no lasting impact” (Smith, 2004, p101). Bullying policy should be reviewed regularly and the whole school community should be involved in and notified of changes.
Children should have a say in the policy as suggested by the DCSF. There are guidance documents such as the Anti-Bullying Alliance resource Are you talking to me?: Young People's Participation in Anti-Bullying. It is important to engage children and incorporate their ideas in the anti-bullying policy allowing them to be an active part of school life. There are a range of suggested classroom activities to encourage pupils to discuss anti-bullying policy. The Government has recently made PSHE lessons compulsory and these are a perfect platform for discussing bullying and anti-bullying policy.
The need is to have a comprehensive anti-bullying policy and strategies in place. Not every school has a policy that is comprehensive and covers the extensive bullying types. For example, Adams, Cox & Dunstan (2004) reported that out of 19 schools surveyed in the UK none of them specifically mentioned sexual orientation in the anti-bullying policies.
What can the government do to tackle bullying?
There are a range of things the government can still do to tackle bullying. A statuary duty should be made on schools and education authorities in Scotland to have anti-bullying policy in place. Scottish Schools are not legally obliged to have any policy or strategy in place to counteract bullying. Wales should also have regional advisors like England to advise schools about the effective strategies against bullying including best practice and how to create all an effective anti-bullying policy. The government should also find a way of assessing anti-bullying policy in each school as having this policy in place does not mean it is being implemented properly or carried out in the School context.
Finally awareness should be raised on the newest forms of bullying such as cyber-bullying this should also be reflected in relevant policy. PSHE lessons can help raise this awareness and I feel bullying should become a compulsory topic allowing the school to discuss not only bullying in general but their own anti-bullying policy and practice.
After examining the research, articles, statistics and other information it does become apparent bullying has ever so slightly demised in the last few years but not really enough. This tells me that the government initiatives and policies have had a small effect in reducing bullying. The big problem with the anti-bullying policy is that each school has to devise the policy and implement it, which means the policy’s effectiveness can range dramatically between each school. If the government is to succeed at cracking down on bullying significantly I feel it is necessary to do the research and implement the same effective policy in each school. It may be useful for the Government to examine leading countries in the fight against bullying. The government also needs to listen to the people that this problem effects and find out their views on the policy that stands.
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