Bullying hurts. No-one deserves to be a victim of bullying. Everybody has the right to be treated with respect.
My reflection, having worked with schools and academies over many years, is that all staff I have met with are truly committed to providing a caring, friendly and safe environment for all children and young people, so children can thrive and learn in a relaxed secure atmosphere. But realistically, no matter what ethos a setting promotes, bullying behavior will emerge in some shape or form.
So let’s be absolutely clear, bullying is a form of peer-on-peer abuse. No longer should we think of bullying in any other remit. Just like other forms of peer-on-peer abuse, bullying behavior is abhorrent, damaging and dangerous, yes dangerous. As in all forms of peer-on-peer abuse, bullying is a form of exploitation which usually harms peers of the same or a similar age. Such exploitation includes racist, religious, sexual, homophobic, cyber and bullying targeted on disability. The impact of bullying cannot be underestimated, it shapes and effects how children go on to perceive the world around them. As such, I suggest a change in mind set. Bullying, no matter how low level the impact may be perceived at the time of incident, is serious, worrying and is likely to have longer term effects. We need to regard this as dangerous and both act swiftly and effectively.
Whilst considering the protection and support of a peer-on-peer abuse victim, it is also essential to understand that the child who is perpetrating the abuse may be at risk of harm. Every effort should be taken to ensure that the perpetrator is also treated as a victim and assessment of their risk and needs should be undertaken. This involves working with the perpetrator to help them understand the nature of their behaviour and the effect it has on others. Those who bully clearly need to learn different ways of behaving.
In educational settings we have to be vigilant to identify any behaviour that intentionally hurts another individual or group and have a responsibility to respond promptly and effectively to any issues of bullying. To do this effectively we must have policy, cross referenced to aligned policies, and focus on enabling staff through high quality robust training.