Every primary and secondary school in the UK will have to deal with bullying behaviour in some form or another every week. Some 16,000 children are absent from school in the course of a year solely due to bullying.
It can come in the form of overt physical bullying, verbal abuse and, with the advent of social media, there is yet another way pupils can bully and degrade their fellow classmates, or even teachers, through cyberbullying.
It is imperative for each school to have policies in place to deal with bullying behaviour, so that incidents can be dealt with quickly.
However persistent bullying behaviour causing ongoing physical or emotional harm requires a firmer hand and somewhat different strategies. So how can you manage persistent bullying behaviour in your setting?
Get the facts about the bullying behaviour
Children are prone to lie when it comes to saving their own skin, especially when a punishment such as expulsion is on the cards.
Sometimes it will be a case of ‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’, but when persistent bullying behaviour is occurring, the facts of the case need to be established.
Who is causing the bullying? In what manner is the bullying taking place? Is there any evidence of the bullying on social media pages or are there witnesses?
Understanding exactly what is going on is very important so that no party is falsely accused. Take the facts, find out the root cause, and only then make decisions regarding the situation.
Make it a group effort
A single teacher cannot effectively deal with bullying behaviour which is more than just a single incident. Your school may have a specific bullying policy which has allocated members of staff who are responsible for such matters – talk to your colleagues and don’t be reticent about asking for help and advice.
Involve the students themselves, get input from other teachers, invite the parents into school, keep the headteacher updated on the progress and arrange for a specific time for meetings to take place with a clear objective.
The behaviour needs to be brought to a stop as soon as possible, and arrangements can easily be put into place to deter the behaviour – such as moving the offending student into a different class or placing warnings on them with severe consequences.
Monitor the situation
It’s all too easy to think a problem has been resolved by one meeting and a firm word to the students involved.
If the bullying behaviour has been persistent, areas such as the playground need to be monitored by a member of staff who is aware of the situation so that they can keep an eye on the offending student and the victim.
Even a menacing glance towards the victim can be enough to cause distress. Make a point of returning to the case file of this persistent bullying and update the notes regularly.
Have there been reports of further bullying by the same student towards another individual? Mark it down. Talk to the victim and ask how they feel about the situation from time to time.
If they feel like the school is not doing enough, they will either make it known or alternatively lose trust in the school. Ensure they feel safe and secure in their learning environment.