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Liffy McDonnell Bond, Project Officer, Anti-Bullying Alliance, has some suggestions
Debates and discussions allow us to think differently, see things from another person’s point of view and develop relationships. And they can help make us aware of our own misconceptions and/or prejudices. Yet, whether online or face to face, we’ve all seen it happen – when a seemingly healthy discussion or debate tips over into a full-blown argument or personal attack, sometimes descending into verbal or even physical abuse and, over time, bullying.
We can’t always agree but we can of course, ‘agree to disagree’. Learning how to respectfully disagree with people and ensure that the balance of power doesn’t tip over is such an important life skill; it doesn’t need to get personal. Yet, all too often it does. Creating safe spaces and forums where difference is respected, whether it’s differences in views, beliefs, gender, age, disability, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, for example, is critical to challenging negative behaviour.
Creating a culture of respect is key to the way schools support their pupils, tackle bullying and improve pupils’ wellbeing. Bullying is not only a barrier to learning: it’s a safeguarding issue, and the long-term effects of frequent and persistent bullying on children’s outcomes are severe. It’s therefore critical that these issues are addressed early and that children are equipped with the right tools and skills to engage in healthy relationships, whether online or face to face.
How can schools help children to choose respect over bullying?
- Review your school ethos, and make it clear that the school actively respects and celebrates difference and diversity.
- Ensure that your anti-bullying policy is up to date, freely accessible and regularly promoted – and that it makes clear how you will respond to bullying as a school community. Build respect into the whole school approach to tackling bullying.
- Develop children’s and young people’s understanding of what respect is, how to identify disrespectful behaviour and the importance of respecting themselves and others around them.
- Create a talking culture in your school, where any hurtful and disrespectful behaviour is quickly brought out in the open, discussed and dealt with.
- Challenge all forms of offensive or discriminatory language in your school (eg homophobic and transphobic comments, sexist and sexual language, racist and faith targeted comments, disablist words).
- Ensure that children know that they don’t have to be friends with everyone – but they should always show respect, make it clear that they don’t like it when people bully others; and schools should support children to safely stick up for peers who are having a hard time.
- Develop resources and activities to include in PSHE and RSE lessons on relationships, respectful behaviour and bullying.
- Role model respectful behaviour. Children learn and imitate negative as well as positive behaviour from adults, so it’s important that school staff demonstrate respectful behaviour with their colleagues and pupils.
This year, Anti-Bullying Week runs from 12-16 November. The theme ‘Choose Respect’ following a consultation with over 600 children and young people and 200 teachers and school staff. Following the consultation, it was clear that the top priority was showing that bullying is a behaviour choice and that children and young people can set a positive example by opting to respect each other at school, in their homes and communities, and online.
Building on the theme, the Anti-Bullying Alliance has produced a range of free resources to help teachers promote respect during the week, including lesson plans, assembly ideas and teaching packs. During the week we are also holding:
- Odd Socks Day (Monday 12 November): children wear odd socks to school to highlight what makes us all unique.
- Stop Speak Support Day (Thursday 15 November): we highlight the issue of cyberbullying.
Each of these elements has free school packs with ideas about how to bring it all together.
Liffy McDonnell Bond, Project Officer, Anti-Bullying Alliance