13th November 2009
Department launches major anti-bullying initiative
THE Department of Education has announced a major anti-bullying initiative on the eve of Anti-Bullying Week 2009 (16- 20 November).
Research carried out during the compilation of the Isle of Man Government’s first ever Children’s Plan, published in May, found that despite there being good overall levels of care in the Department’s 40 schools, pupils indicate that bullying or fear of bullying is still an issue.
‘As a result, the Department has asked all schools to review, amend if necessary and re-launch their existing anti-bullying policies to make it clear to everyone that bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,’ Deputy Director of Education Stuart Dobson today announced.
‘Incidents of bullying are, for the first time, to be reported to the Department so that incidents and trends can be analysed. Schools are already expected to monitor all incidents of bullying and take action to prevent any further incidents.
‘Work is also going on in the classrooms in schools this fortnight to enable pupils to explore reasons behind bullying and the effect it has on its victims. This can only improve empathy among children and young people and increase their understanding of the effects the actions of bullies can have.’
As a part of the initiative, the Department has invited Alison O’Brien, Co-ordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (North West region), to lead two, half-day workshops raising awareness and sharing information on anti-bullying. These will take place on Monday 7 December and are aimed at headteachers and other senior staff.
Alison is an acknowledged expert in this field. She initiated the development of the Anti-Bullying Alliance after 27 years as a teacher, 10 of them as a headteacher, and after working as an adviser for the NSPCC. She is well qualified to offer support and advice as schools ensure that their policies on bullying are up to date and reflect current best practice.
An inset day next June will tackle the issue of bullying within the wider context of safeguarding, and teachers will be offered a menu of different workshops, Mr Dobson said.
‘The Department of Education, along with other Departments, is working hard to address issues so that every pupil in our schools can enjoy their experience of education and therefore be able to achieve as much as possible,’ Mr Dobson continued.
‘We are fortunate on the Isle of Man to have relatively few serious incidents of bullying, but there are some and we need to make sure that pupils and their families know and understand that bullying will not be tolerated.
‘This is not simply about dealing with inappropriate behaviour. We need our schools to identify bullying quickly, support the victims and deal with any perpetrators effectively so that they cease their actions which are causing hurt. It is not acceptable for anyone in the system to simply say: “There has always been bullying”.
‘By asking our schools to review their existing practices and to publicise their procedures to pupils and parents, we hope to raise the profile of anti-bullying and get people to use the mechanisms for dealing with it, many of which are already in place.’
The Island’s five newly established Multi-Agency Teams are also carrying out anti-bullying initiatives to coincide with the national awareness week.
Education Minister Anne Craine MHK said bullying had also taken on new forms, something those looking after children needed to be aware of.
She said: ‘There are all kinds of problems that turn people into bullies and often it is their own insecurity that makes them behave badly towards others. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t just present itself in physical fighting but nowadays through more insidious forms such as mentally undermining confidence through new technology such as facebook or texting.
‘We need to prepare our young people to deal with such intimidation and to do that we need to be able to give them an armoury of tactics to be able to rebut the ugly behaviour of the bully, whether in school, on the bus, in the street or online.
‘I hope that by making people aware that bullying comes in many different forms and helping them to deal with it, we will be able to encourage a society of young people who can be left alone to grow up without fear and able to develop their own self-confidence and esteem. Bullies have no place in our schools and no place to hide in our community.’