Today marks the beginning of Anti-Bullying Week, a campaign coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance in order to bring schools, professionals and families together to unite against bullying. Here at The Outdoors Group, we strongly stand alongside them and fully agree with their values that every child and young person has intrinsic worth and value and deserves to be respected and treated with courtesy. Bullying can have a devastating and long lasting impact on the lives of those it affects, both the direct victims and their friends and family. But rather than just looking after the victims after the damage has been done, it is logical that the only way to eradicate unacceptable behaviour is to look at the root cause and see what needs mending there, rather than focusing solely on the victim .
At The Outdoors School, all of the children we work with have SEMH and ASD needs which means that we encounter bullying behaviours on a regular basis. I asked Hannah Clark, our Pastoral Tutor, if she could offer a little insight into how The Outdoors School tackles bullying and how they understand and approach it.
The other side of bullying…
All settings that work with children, young people and adults too, should take bullying seriously. The simplistic view of victim and perpetrator is not helpful in our setting, or in keeping with the reality of the root cause behind most bullies’ actions and intentions. We all know that behind the surface of a bully lies a vulnerable person in need of support.
Hitting, kicking, targeted swearing, exclusion from games, are all behaviours we experience in our school on a daily basis. When dealing with incidents of this nature, from an outside perspective they may be deemed as bullying- children may continually target another child either verbally or attempt to physically damage them or their property. However, rarely does the instigator have the feelings of the victim in their mind or as a priority; instead their actions are a response to something more complex than that and with an understanding of that, we support our children to overcome this.
A bully is a (misunderstood) victim too
We work with children with very low self esteem and poor self regard. Their neurodiversity and crucially, awareness of their differences, can lead to feelings of isolation, confusion and feeling powerless and out of control. This sometimes manifests in behaviour that can seem controlling or aggressive. After an incident, we carry out some form of restorative action (appropriate to each child individually), to help all involved to make sense of the situation, feel a sense of justice and crucially move on. An onlooker may witness a child who continually mimics or antagonises another learner, as being a bully. A first course of action is to support the victim (through restorative justice, social stories, teaching strategies for shrugging off/ ignoring and so on). But equally important is supporting the perpetrator to make sense of what happened and to explore the root causes behind the need to exert authority/ feel in control.
A Restorative Approach
We use a reflective approach sometimes focused on using a narrative sheet or social story, to look at the steps leading up to an incident and the thoughts and feelings around it. A key message for all our learners; victims and bullies is that is it ok to have feelings (including those of anger, a need to feel in control, to be listened and so on), but that actions that cause harm to others, need to be explored so that we can all learn and move on.
For more information or resources, please visit the Anti-Bullying Alliance website or if you would like to find out more about our approach, please do not hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org (for school related enquiries) or email@example.com (for general enquiries).
Author: Hannah Clark, Pastoral Tutor at The Outdoors School
Date: Monday 16th November 2020