Victimised schoolchildren,concerned parents, and frustrated teachers alike are struggling against a rising epidemic of school bullying. According to one poll, parents’ worst fear when sending their children off to secondary school for the first time is that they’ll be bullied. They have reason to worry: nearly half of pupils in UK schools will experience bullying before their eighteenth birthdays. But there’s no need for worried parents and their children to stand helplessly by; you can work with UK charities to turn the tide against bullying.This article will introduce you to two regular antibullying events, AntiBullying Week and AntiBullying Day, as well as programmes that can train teachers, pupils, and parents in the fight against bullying.
Developed to give focus and structure to antibullying presentations, this event is recognised in both England and Northern Ireland. The AntiBullying Week is held annually in the third week of November. Each year the week has a distinct “theme,” or focus. For example, some past years’ themes have included:
- Cyberbullying: “Stay Safe in Cyberspace”
- Bystanders: “See it, Stop it, Get help”
- Diversity: “Being Different, Belonging Together”
- Disabled students: “Let’s stop bullying for all”
These and other themes are used to help organise and define the aspects of bullying that students learn about from year to year.
The event’s 2004 launch in England started the tradition of holding an antibullying week each year. Shortly afterwards the Northern Ireland AntiBullying Week Campaigns began to occur annually as well. Organising the event are the Anti-Bullying Alliance in England and the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum in Ireland. These organisations supply teaching materials and support to groups (not just schools but also community youth organisations such as clubs and youth groups), facilitating lesson and activity planning. Common features of the week in past years have included:
- Creative competitions where children can showcase an antibullying message through art, music, or writing
- Fundraising competitions
If you’re a teacher trying to fight bullying in the classroom, this is your chance to provide antibullying instruction as a defined part of the regular curriculum. AntiBullying Week is widely recognised and many resources have been built up around it. For example, the groups that organise it provide help such as:
- Theme-specific information sheets
- Lesson and activity ideas in each year’s antibullying Campaign Packs
- Free training for UK teachers
Other UK antibullying charities and organisations that provide teacher helps for this week include:
- Schoolbeat.org, a Wales-based resource, provides materials and activities from four contributing partners for teachers’ use.
- Bullying UK is a registered charity in England and Wales, and produces supporting materials for each year’s Anti-Bullying Week.
- ActionWork offers a unique and powerful roadshow presentation each year that incorporates anti-bullying videos and other media to help structure material in a way children will want to hear.
- Finding Your Inner Cherokee is an e-book by a UK writer with case studies and motivational stories you can use in class presentations about bullying.
- Beyond Bullying provides a PDF document with outlines, definitions, and discussion questions (originally from kidscape.org).
This week is an ideal time to decorate your classroom with antibullying posters and perhaps write antibullying quotes and antibullying laws on the whiteboard or bulletin board. You could even involve pupils by offering a prize for the best original poster. Other ideas for incorporating Anti-Bullying Week into your school routine include:
- Class discussions
- Role-playing activities
- Anti-Bullying Week newsletter
For children, the UK-based ABA website provides an information sheet and tips on how to take a stand against bullying and raise awareness in your school and community. Ideas include:
- Creating a photo pledge and sharing it online
- Entering the song competition, the writing competition, and the fundraising competition
- Following ABA on Facebook and Twitter
Fact sheets are also available for parents of UK schoolchildren, as well as carers, children, youth workers, and volunteers who work with children. Parents can become members of ABA, donate money, and purchase special Anti-Bullying Week merchandise to support their children’s efforts and demonstrate solidarity with victims of bullying.
Anti Bullying Day
In 2007, two Canadian students began the movement that would be the impetus for international discussion and several annual antibullying events around the world. Disgusted by the actions of a bully who was taunting a younger student for wearing a pink shirt, these two twelfth-grade boys planned an event to show that they would tolerate no bullying in their school. They bought fifty pink shirts to distribute to their classmates, who reciprocated in many cases by bringing pink clothes of their own. It was a great show of solidarity, and it inspired not only the UK’s Anti-Bullying Day but also Canada’s own International Day of Pink.
AntiBullying Day is also known as Pink Shirt Day (for obvious reasons), and is celebrated on May 4th of every year in the UK. This date was officially recognised by the United Nations in 2012, so it’s a recently established event, although individual countries such as New Zealand had been celebrating for several years by that time. Different countries celebrate on different dates (for example, the fourth Wednesday of February in Canada), and some have adopted the colour blue or even purple instead of pink.
Anti-Bullying Day began with just two children who asked their classmates to help them make a difference. You may feel insignificant, but you can make a difference too. Ask your friends to stand with you against bullying by wearing pink to school on May 4th. If each of your friends asks their friends to do the same, you can make an impact together. Here are a few ways you can acquire AntiBullying Day clothes and accessories online:
- You can purchase a shirt from one of several anti-bullying charities. This way your money does double duty: it’s first used to buy an AntiBullying Day shirt, and then used later by the charity to support future antibullying activities.
- Different types of Anti-Bullying memorabilia (such as pin badges, stickers, and pencils) can be purchased from other similar charities who will also put your money to good use.
- You can create a free printable anti-bullying poster online. This allows you to distribute your own personalised anti-bullying memorabilia. Submit your poster to the gallery, then print out lots of copies and share them with your friends!
For Children: Anti-Bullying Ambassadors
Organised by the UK’s Diana Award, this programme was funded in 2013 and has served over ten thousand children in the intervening years. The group provides anti-bullying training, focusing on children rather than on teachers because the founders believe that peer-led antibullying programmes are the most effective.
If you’re a concerned schoolmate of bullies or bully victims, this programme is for you. The group reaches not only England but also Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Many regional training events are scheduled but personalised visits are also available for a school or other organisation that wants to provide this training to staff or pupils. Other ways to get involved include:
- Nominating members for the Diana award
- Following the organisation online
- Creating school-wide events using free resources
For Teachers: Professional Training
Since teacher training programs don’t provide much in the way of anti-bullying training, you may find that you need to supplement your education with professional development resources. Often schools will provide literature and other resources even if no professional training is available, so make the most of any lesson ideas or classroom activities you can find in this way. Then use some of the programmes below to extend your knowledge and expertise even more.
- For free anti-bullying programmes, check out kidscape.org’s training page.
- The Anti-Bullying Alliance provides six training modules (30-40 minutes each) at no cost. In accordance with the theme of the Anti-Bullying Week for which they were developed, these modules focus on bullying as it applies to disabled children. You can register for free and then complete the six modules on your computer or tablet.
- Old.webanywhere.co.uk offers a downloadable guide on cyberbullying, its effects, and how to protect your pupils.
These training opportunities are designed to help you become not only a better teacher but also a better advocate for your students and especially for victims of bullying.
For Parents: Practical Training
It’s sometimes difficult for parents to get access to the same kind of training that’s available to teachers, and presentations geared toward an audience of teachers can be cluttered with hard-to-understand professional teacher vocabulary. To avoid these difficulties, you may want to focus instead on the practical training available for parents, including opportunities like these:
- RespectMe, the anti-bullying service of Scotland, provides free training sessions to parents and other carers. In addition to bullying awareness, it includes training on how to help your child safely operate a social media account.
- The Bullying Intervention Group offers accredited courses on all sorts of bullying topics.
Your efforts may seem small and insignificant at first, but the anti-bullying movement needs people like you; teachers, pupils, and parents all have critical anti-bully roles to play. Try getting involved in these UK anti-bullying programmes and events, and throw your weight into helping the tables turn against bullying.