How can schools tackle bullying?

by | Mar 7, 2019

‘Bullying’ is a highly emotive, and strong term for an action that can encompass a wide range of verbal, non-verbal and physical behaviours.

Seemingly somewhat trivial events- from being excluded from a game at playtime, to being called names that are intended to be hurtful, to having your choice of food ridiculed at snack time- are all aspects of bullying that I am sure evoke some hurtful memories in adults reading this article.

Schools not only have an opportunity to be able to positively influence a school community to prevent and tackle bullying, they also have a significant responsibility to do so. School bullying happens at school- and now with the prevalence of social media usage amongst even primary age children, bullying can occur in the sanctuary of the home too, with some devastating repercussions for children, young people and families.

Aspen Heights British School has had the privilege of being a brand-new school; a blank canvas to create a positive and supportive school community where bullying, if occurring, is swiftly and effectively dealt with in close partnership with children, staff and families. We have approached this successfully in different ways:

Ethos and Values:

Our school values of ‘Courtesy’, ‘Consideration’, Co-operation’ and ‘Common -sense’ -our ‘4 Cs’ guide all our actions and behaviours in school. School staff; from learning support assistants, to teaching staff and administrative staff are role models for these behaviours. We actively teach these with our children through story, role play and circle times, and positively reward such behaviour, and take steps to address behaviour that is contrary to our values.

Behaviour policy:

Staff, children and families are all very aware of the school expectations of behaviour, how it encourages positive behaviour and attitudes to learning, and to others, and what will happen when a child is unable to meet our expectations. Having an open dialogue, clear and shared guidelines, and a willingness by families and school to work collaboratively enables most behaviour challenges to be overcome swiftly with a positive resolution.

Children and families:

Children come to school to learn- and they make mistakes, which enables them to learn. Bullying is not a ‘one-off’ incident where a foundation stage child has pushed another child to get to the scooters first- that is a child learning the acceptable and appropriate way to behave. Bullying is targeted, direct and negative behaviour sustained over a period of time. Exploring with children and families what bullying is, and is not is a key aspect of a school’s approach to dealing with bullying.

Positive playtimes:

Across schools, bullying is more likely to occur during playtimes, particularly if children are bored. Planning for playtimes to be active, happy and social learning aspects of a child’s school day is important for a school to prevent bullying incidents. At Aspen Heights we have developed a ‘zoned’ playground, where children can choose to create, build collaboratively, run, or take part in one of the traditional playground games taught to them by their peer ‘playleaders’.

We are so proud that our children, who have been together for only 10 weeks, are developing into reflective, kind, happy and supportive members of the Aspen Heights School community.

Emma Shanahan
Principal, Aspen Heights British School

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