Anti-Bullying Week is organised every year in England and Wales by the Anti-Bullying Alliance which is a coalition of organisations united against bullying. In Scotland it is supported by Respect Me, and in Northern Ireland by the Anti-Bullying Forum. Together, these groups have a vision to stop bullying in all its forms, be they organisations with a remit to tackle bullying at their core, schools and colleges or individuals who support the work that the ABA do. Each organisation develops their own resources and activity to support the week.
Anti-Bullying Week is one of the flagship events that they organise, and this year, it takes place from 14th to 18th November to raise awareness of the ongoing issues related to bullying and provide information and support for the victims of bullying. The theme this year is “Reach Out” and it was decided this year by teachers and children who wanted a theme that empowered them to do something positive to counteract the negative effects of bullying.
Bullying affects millions of people each year, not just the people being bullied, but it also negatively affects their families, teachers, professionals and also the bullies and bystanders themselves too. It is, unfortunately, all too often, a vicious cycle where those who have been bullied themselves, end up bullying others so the time has come to reach out and end the negative cycle.
As the ABW website says:
“Whether it’s in school, at home, in the community or online, let’s reach out and show each other the support we need. Reach out to someone you trust if you need to talk. Reach out to someone you know is being bullied. Reach out and consider a new approach.”
A definition of bullying
Bullying has been defined by the Anti-Bullying Alliance as “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online.”
There are four key elements to this definition, which are that the actions have to be:
- Involve a power imbalance which could be to do with age, gender, status, number of people involved or other power imbalance that puts one person/group at a disadvantage
A lot of bullying nowadays takes place in the online environment and can be particularly harmful and difficult to trace because of the anonymity afforded by some online platforms.
Unfortunately, some groups of children are more at-risk from bullying than others, and may need additional support of extra vigilance to guard against bullying. These include:
- Looked after children and ex-looked after children
- Children with special educational needs and disabilities
- Young carers
- People from ethnic minorities
- People whose appearance may differ from the majority
- People in the LGBTQ+ community
- People of different faiths and religions
This list is not exhaustive, and many children suffer from bullying who do not fall into these categories, so it is important to keep an open mind and look for changes in people’s behaviour. And although ABW mainly focuses on schools and colleges, bullying is not confined to young people either, as adults can also suffer this kind of abuse at work or in the community.
Bullying behaviour can be:
- Physical – pushing, poking, kicking, hitting, biting, pinching etc.
- Verbal - name calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, threats, teasing, belittling
- Emotional – isolating others, tormenting, hiding books, threatening gestures, ridicule, humiliation, intimidating, excluding, manipulation and coercion
- Sexual – unwanted physical contact, inappropriate touching, abusive comments, homophobic abuse, exposure to inappropriate films etc.
- Online/cyber – posting on social media, sharing photos, sending nasty text messages, social exclusion
- Indirect - can include the exploitation of individuals
Some of these types of behaviour are indicative of older young people rather than early years children per se, but it is important to look out for all young people in your setting, so ensure that your apprentices or trainees understand that there are people to turn to if they experience bullying too.
Bullying and early years
Research has reported that bullying behaviour can be displayed in children as young as 3, but it can sometimes be difficult to assess the difference between conflicts in relationships as children are learning to express themselves and their own wants and needs at this age, and what might be termed ‘bullying’. The key here is to go back to the definition and try to identify if there is a malicious intent that is repeated, with a power imbalance.
Either way, where there are disagreements in early years setting between children, it is often necessary for a trusted and responsible adult to step in and teach the children about other choices they can make, and other ways of behaving to prevent any conflicts from escalating into bullying.
Tips for early years settings
The ABA has produced some tips for early years settings to help explain some of the issues which relate specifically to this age group. It can be downloaded for free from here.
These include :
- Understanding that it is not a child’s fault if they are being bullied and that they will need someone to come and talk to
- Supporting children to understand how to accept differences between people
- Challenging behaviour in the early years which could lead to problems
- Encouraging children to speak out if others are not being kind to them
- Not labelling children as ‘naughty’ or a bully but understanding and helping children make better choices instead
There are more tips and suggestions on the website too along with ideas on how to get involved in your setting.
Building on success
Last year, 80% of schools marked Anti-Bullying Week in some way, and over 7.5 million children and young people were impacted in some way, either by attending workshops, having special lessons or other ways that helped people inform and educate people about bullying and what can be done to stop it.
Start with socks – odd socks!
As every year, the week starts with Odd Socks Day in which pupils are encouraged to wear odd socks to remind everyone that we are all unique and special individuals who deserve respect. This initiative is also supported by staff from CBBC so why not encourage your children this year to start talking about socks, and what makes them special and unique, then progress and reach out to find out things that make us all special and unique, to tackling bullying before it starts?