Anti-Bullying Week: Using your Power for Good

Written by: Lauren Seager-Smith | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week will be encouraging pupils to realise the power they often hold and to ensure they use it for good. Lauren Seager-Smith explains

You never forget your headteacher. In secondary school I had a very nasty prolonged period of what I can best describe as stalking. A sort of 1990s version of cyber-bullying by Royal Mail where I received a constant stream of unsolicited parcels and letters, culminating in a life insurance policy I hadn’t taken out.

To this day I remember the sense of relief as I finally entered the headteacher’s office, poured out my story, and the masterful way in which she laid down the law in no uncertain terms at our next assembly – with the stalking coming to an immediate halt.

She had such power – and she had it because we were all a bit scared of her, a bit in awe of her and had the utmost respect for her. I needed her and she delivered.

As headteachers you are in an incredible position to change the lives of the children and young people in your care – and for the child that is being bullied, you present a lifeline.

Anti-Bullying Week, coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), is taking place from November 14 to 18 and this year the theme is Power for Good. This year we are calling on all members of the school community to use their Power for Good to stop bullying. The key aims of the week are:

  • To support children and young people to use their Power for Good – by understanding the ways in which they are powerful and encouraging individual and collective action to stop bullying and create the best world possible.
  • To help parents and carers to use their Power for Good – through supporting children with issues relating to bullying and working together with schools to stop bullying.
  • To encourage all teachers, school support staff and youth workers to use their Power for Good – by valuing the difference they can make in a child’s life, and taking individual and collective action to prevent bullying and create safe environments where children can thrive.

Power dynamics are part of the fabric of school life and are evident in every class, playground, corridor and staffroom. Power dynamics are also fundamental to how we define, understand and take action against bullying.

ABA defines bullying as “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power”.

This Anti-Bullying Week we want to support schools to explore with pupils what we mean by an imbalance of power, sending a positive message that we all have a choice to use our Power for Good.

Teachers have a vital role in being alert to imbalances of power between pupils. This can manifest itself in many ways and change over time. We know that certain pupils are significantly more likely to be bullied and be subject to abuses of power.

For example, recent research from ABA with more than 8,000 pupils in England found that one in three disabled children and those with SEN were victims of frequent bullying, and that children who were eligible for free school meals were more likely to be victims of frequent bullying then those who were not eligible.

We also know that opportunities to abuse power online in the form of cyber-bullying – whether it is by sending embarrassing images and videos of others, or publicly denigrating another pupil, teacher or parent – are all too common.

So what can be done about it? As a headteacher you are in a powerful role – and you can make a very real difference in the lives of the children you see day-in, day-out. You have an opportunity to model strength, commitment and kindness; to be alert to power dynamics between students and staff, taking steps to even the balance, and to act as a champion for everyone to feel safe, valued and celebrated within your school community.

You can ensure that your school regularly consults with students, parents and carers and staff about issues relating to bullying and that you have an Anti-Bullying Policy that is up-to-date, shared with all members of your school community, and available on your school website.

You can stand up and make a bold statement that while bullying can happen anywhere – you take it extremely seriously and will take all action needed to stop it. You can create a school environment where every pupil and parent feels confident that if they report bullying, something will be done about it.

A couple of weeks ago we met with members of Young NCB (the National Children’s Bureau’s youth participation programme) and we asked them what teachers did well, and not so well, when it came to tackling bullying. They were very clear that the best teachers were not those that seek to be friends with pupils – but rather those that have clear authority, have no favourites and are fair to all – making all pupils feel safe.

This year ABA has launched the Power for Good Award, where students can nominate school staff who go beyond the call of duty to support students with issues relating to bullying, relationships, family life and mental health. ABA wants to publicly celebrate the many headteachers and school staff in England that take positive action against bullying – and encourage everyone working in education to understand just how powerful they are in this fight.

We encourage you to take part in Anti-Bullying Week 2016 and support the Power for Good theme. The ABA website already has logos you can use and the key aims. Over the coming weeks there will be assemblies and lesson plans, as well as practical advice for teachers, parents and pupils.

Often it only takes one person to change the course of someone’s life – and for many of us that person was a headteacher.

  • Lauren Seager-Smith is national coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, which is hosted by the National Children’s Bureau.

Further information

For more information about Anti-Bullying Week 2016 including the Power for Good Award and information on the official Anti-Bullying Week film competition for schools, visit www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/anti-bullying-week or follow @ABAonline


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