'All Different, All Equal' - Anti-Bullying Week 2017

Written by: Martha Evans | Published:
Image: iStock

Discrimination in schools is still a real challenge. Embracing Anti-Bullying Week 2017 and celebrating difference can be an antidote to intolerance, says Martha Evans.

A recent Freedom of Information request to England’s police forces has shown a dramatic rise – particularly during the Brexit campaign – in incidences of hate crime in schools.

This research backs up what we at the Anti-Bullying Alliance have been hearing from schools in recent years: that discrimination based on difference is still a very real issue.

The extent of the problem is confirmed by recent research. In 2014, our survey of teachers showed high levels of disablist language going unchallenged and misunderstood in schools. Subsequently, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) published findings that showed the high levels of discriminatory bullying happening in schools.

The ATL’s survey found that more than a fifth of teachers said their students have been subjected to hate crime and speech in the last year alone.

This kind of abuse has a tremendous negative impact on a young person’s mental health and the effects can last long after the bullying stops. The Anti-Bullying Alliance wants to see more awareness and support for schools so they can challenge discriminatory language and hate crimes and incidents as soon they occur.

Of course, discrimination doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These problems come in the shadow of significant world events and changes to the political landscape. There is a growing sense that we are a divided society, and it is difficult not to worry about the effect on the next generation. Are they growing up detached from others in increasingly entrenched social divisions?

So it was all the more heartening to hear from almost 600 children and young people who took part in a survey for the Anti-Bullying Alliance, and learn that, although they do recognise this negative discourse, they want it to change and they want to be a part of that change.

The young people we spoke to recognise that certain groups are more vulnerable to bullying, and they asked us to focus our work on helping them. When we asked what the theme of Anti-Bullying Week 2017 should concentrate on, the top results were:

  • Race and faith-targeted bullying.
  • Bullying related to disability or SEN.
  • Homophobic, biphobic and/or transphobic bullying.
  • Appearance-related bullying.

At a time of division, young people are telling us that they would like us to celebrate the positive aspects of difference, and show what links people from different walks of life.

That is how we arrived at this year’s theme for Anti-Bullying Week, which takes place from November 13 to 17. The theme is “All Different, All Equal” and we want to:

  • Support children and young people to celebrate what makes them, and others, unique and help them understand why it is important that every child feels included in school and is able to be themselves without fear of bullying.
  • Help parents and carers support their children to feel good about who they are, celebrate difference and talk to them about issues relating to bullying.
  • Encourage all teachers, school support staff and youth workers to celebrate what makes us “all different, all equal”, by valuing and championing difference and diversity in school, taking individual and collective action to prevent bullying and create safe environments where children can be themselves.

The other point of note from the survey we carried out was the sense that Anti-Bullying Week should be owned and led by young people themselves. They told us that they want to help set the activities that occur during the week and take real ownership of anti-bullying work throughout their school.

We are seeing a recognition of division, of difference, and of the negative affects this is having on society, but we are hearing about a drive to change things. We want to harness this energy and create a school where everyone is welcome, safe and free from harm.

Join us on this journey by getting involved in our free All Together programme designed to give teachers tailored support as they tackle bullying in their school. This also show schools how they can evidence anti-bullying interventions to Ofsted.

  • Martha Evans is coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance.

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