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Part One: How to combat bullying via pupil-led solutions for a more harmonious classroom

Almost everyone will have experienced bullying at some point in their lives.  From seemingly low-level passive aggressive taunts, to high profile physical confrontations, there is a knowledge of bullying from the very earliest ages.

But as a teacher, with your employer legally obliged to intervene, how do you focus your efforts on stopping such destructive behaviour?  Who can you turn to when you lack the basic guidance, knowledge or training to know where to even begin?  Whilst it is a daunting challenge, you are not alone.  Sadly, bullying is still a common problem in UK schools, with many attempts focussing on the high-profile cases of physical bullying, whilst sometimes inadvertently passing over the subtler, yet just as damaging, psychological bullying.

Elizabeth Nassem, a researcher of bullying for more than 10 years, found that the most effective approaches enable children to play a leading role in resolving bullying.  Below are her top tips for a more harmonious classroom, via her pupil-led solutions.

Improve your understanding of bullying
Any school trying to tackle bullying needs to look beyond the “bully” and “victim” labels. Instead, it’s helpful to consider bullying as a spectrum of negative interactions that range from mild to severe, such as name-calling and hitting. Ask the children in your school about their experiences of bullying, why children might bully others, and how they think bullying should be addressed.

Bullying often happens because of a desire to be popular and to relieve boredom. To address this, help students find alternative ways to improve their status – by, for example, including ostracised pupils in activities and encouraging their peers to help.

Offer mentoring to ‘bullies’
Offer mentoring to those students who are persistently in trouble for bullying, to help them understand why they engage in this behaviour and resolve the underlying issues. Talking with students about what happened, the likely consequences of their actions, how they could respond more respectfully next time and role-playing alternative scenarios can all help break the pattern of negative behaviour.

Schools could provide regular sessions to resolve bullying proactively, rather than reacting to specific incidents after the fact. One pupil we worked with said afterwards: “I’ve quit all the fights and naughty things I’ve done.” Meanwhile, one headteacher we worked with told us there were no more reports of bullying at their school after they provided this type of mentoring.

Check back next month for mroe of Elizabeth's tips!

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