Bullying is never ok. It’s hurtful and can impact someone for a long time.There are people you and your children can talk to and things we can do to stop the bullying.

What is bullying?

People often disagree about what bullying means. Is it any hurtful, intimidating behaviour (such as a shove on the playground), or does bullying imply a long-running series of deliberate actions such as name-calling day after day?

Researchers agree that there are five key features of bullying behaviour:

  1. The bully intends to inflict harm or fear upon the target.
  2. Aggression towards the target occurs repeatedly.
  3. The target doesn’t provoke bullying behaviour by using verbal
    or physical aggression.
  4. Bullying occurs in familiar social groups.
  5. The bully is more powerful (either in reality or perception) than their targets, who are usually not able to effectively resist.

It can be carried out by an individual or group towards one or more persons and is a complex social problem, which can occur in environments such as schools.

What bullying isn’t

Behaviours that don’t constitute bullying include:

  • mutual arguments and disagreements (where there’s no power imbalance)
  • not liking someone or a single act of social rejection
  • one-off acts of meanness or spite
  • isolated incidents of aggression, intimidation or violence.

Who gets bullied?
What hurts me so much is that she used to be my friend. Louise, 11

Bullying can happen anywhere, and children with obvious differences aren’t the only ones to suffer – many others are bullied for no obvious reason. Often the person calling the helpline say that the current person tormenting them is a former friend.

Helping your child?
If your child comes home and tells you that they are being bullied at school, what do you do?

As a parent, you may feel angry and upset if you discover that your child is being bullied. Sometimes children don’t tell their parents because they don’t want to upset them. They are also sometimes afraid that their parents won’t take them seriously or will tell them just to stand up for themselves or will approach the school aggressively in their anger.

Here are some pointers for parents from the Bullying: No Way website

Is your child bullying others?
It was only meant to be a bit of fun really – I didn’t mean him to take it seriously. John, 8

It can be very upsetting to be told that your child is bullying other children. All children can be hurtful from time to time. However, if a child finds that bullying leads to greater power in the playground or causes fear or even admiration in other children, then the problem can get much worse.  Early intervention is the best cure.

Your first instinct might be to immediately punish a bullying child, but it is worth pausing for a moment. Could there be a reason your child is acting this way? Sometimes children begin bullying as a reaction to negative events. Has there been a recent change or disruption, is life difficult at home? Is your child involved with a group of children who may be encouraging bullying behaviour? Or, is your child being bullied too?

Perhaps surprisingly, the bullied and bullying aren’t always two distinct groups. Kids helpline show that a number of children say that they had both bullied and been bullied in the last year.

If your child has been bullying others, obviously that behaviour has to be stopped. Talk to your child and try to find out what’s going on. If the incident is a one off, you may need to do no more, but some children still need help and guidance to alter their behaviour. The school is there to help. Chat with your child’s class teacher(s). It is important that your child feels supported throughout the process. Measures like the no-blame approach can help children change their behaviour.

What are we as a school doing to tackle bullying?
From the information that we gain from children at our school, we know that while bullying isn’t persistent and wide spread, it is like any school, happening from time to time. In order to tackle bullying we have some things in place:

  • We use the Australian Curriculum to teach children about respectful relationships, civics and citizenship as well as learning the skills of resilience, conflict resolution and problem solving.
  • Wilson McCaskill’s Play is the Way is a program that we have put into place across the school in order to further children’s learning about getting on with each other, supporting others who are in need and being prepared to listen to what others have to say in order to become more collaborative community members.
  • This is complemented by regular (sometimes daily) discussions that happen between children and  teachers.
  • We have an anti bullying policy, which guides our approach when incidents take place. This is available on the school’s website. While there are certainly consequences for serious behaviour, we work very much on behaviour change. We know that this is something that happens over time and we support the policy with social programs at the classroom level.
  • Our aim is to have a non-confrontational approach to tackle bullying which involves teachers and children discussing a bullying problem and trying to find a solution that all can agree with.
  • We put into place a buddy system so that young children in the school yard have somebody else to go to if the teacher is not immediately close by.
  • All school staff are involved in a variety of training that includes how to support children who are having social and emotional issues, as well as those who are reporting that they are being bullied, teased, verbally or physically harassed. This includes those children who are doing the bullying.
  • Once a term children complete an online survey so we can find out about how they are going, any issues that they are having with other children and to explore ways that we can help. Following this, teachers meet with children identified as the bullied or doing the bullying and if needed put into place an agreed strategy to change behaviour. Leadership and Pamela Hansen (Pastoral care Worker) meet with those who said they just wanted to have a chat.

NO BLAME APPROACH – Behaviour Education
At Woodend Primary School we desire that everyone is safe, valued and respected and that individual differences are appreciated, understood and valued.  We see many examples of children at all ages being very supportive of each other and this behaviour is acknowledged and celebrated.

Our buddy system is extremely effective and the surveys returned by children demonstrate a low frequency of bullying, however, when it does happen, we aim to work actively to change the behaviour.  Information gleaned from student surveys is shared as a blog post.

The primary aim of the school’s response is to restore a positive learning environment for all students.

We use a No-Blame approach, which is focused on finding a solution rather than applying blame. This incorporates a problem-solving approach to stop the bullying,  empowers children to self regulate their behaviour and enables students to make good the harm done.  Students are then followed up on a regular basis for a period of time to ensure that the bullying behaviours have stopped. To achieve this both school and home need to work together to support the children involved, whether they have been bullied or have been doing the bullying.

Students around the state recently participated in a Wellbeing and Engagement Data Collection. We will report on the full picture the data is giving us at another time, but it was very clear from the data that across all year level students reported less bullying than their peers at other public schools in South Australia. Although this is great news, there is still clearly work to be done to further reduce the incidents of bullying at our school.

All classes will have a focus on reducing bullying at the start of this term and we will survey students again in week 5.

More information can be sourced from the the Bullying: No Way! website.