Countering Bullying

REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS

The Positive Relationships Standard
Regulation 11

OTHER RELEVANT CHAPTERS/GUIDANCE

AMENDMENT

This chapter was slightly updated in May 2018.



Contents

  1. Definition of Bullying
  2. Propensity to Involvement in Bullying or Being Bullied
  3. Risk Factors for Bullying
  4. Risk Factors for Being Bullied
  5. How to Prevent Bullying
  6. Regular Forums
  7. The Peer Group
  8. What To Do if you Become Aware of Bullying
  9. Sanctions
  10. Establishing a Safe Culture


1. Definition of Bullying

Bullying involves a desire to hurt-plus- hurtful action plus a power imbalance plus (typically) repetition plus an unjust use of power plus evident enjoyment by the aggressor and generally a sense of being oppressed on the part of the victim. These hurtful actions can be conducted one-to-one, or a group may persecute an individual or another group. Generally bullying is difficult for the victim to defend against.

Bullying - the 'hurtful action' can take many forms, but three main types are:

  • Physical - attacks on persons - hitting, kicking, spitting etc. or property - destroying, stealing;
  • Verbal - name calling, insulting, making offensive remarks, teasing, taunting, psychological denigration, threats of physical bullying, or can include intimidation and extortion - means of persuading someone to do something against their will;
  • Indirect - spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumours. This can tap into the range of options that information technology offers, from Internet message boards, social networking and gaming sites, through to e-mails and texts (cyber-bullying).

Cyber-bullying is on the increase and can be particularly pernicious, literally following children wherever they go, creating a sense of profound threat and violation.

Bullying can be about anything; it is often a way of making someone feel different, and frequently focuses on differences in race, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Generally just being perceived to be different is enough.

  • Name calling is the most common direct form of bullying. This may be because of individual characteristics, but is often related to ethnic origin, nationality or colour; sexual orientation; or some form of disability;
  • In racist bullying, a child is targeted for representing a group, and attacking the individual sends a message to that group. Racist bullying is therefore likely to hurt not only the victim, but also other pupils from the same group, and their families. In the 1999 MacPherson Report, racist bullying was defined as "any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person";
  • Sexual bullying impacts on both genders. A case of proven sexual assault is likely to lead to the exclusion of the perpetrator. Sexual bullying can also be related to sexual orientation whether the victim actually is lesbian, gay or bi-sexual or not.


2. Propensity to Involvement in Bullying or Being Bullied

Children in care are often from backgrounds, or have needs and conditions, that are in themselves risk factors in relation to bullying. The children who are looked after by Childhood First will thus be particularly prone to being bullied or bullying. At Childhood First many children will have been the victim of abuse and we are mindful of the potential for the child who has experienced the powerlessness of 'victim' to seek to gain power by a gradual evolution towards the position of 'bully'.  Our working ethos is one wherein the identification of this cycle, and its origins in each child's personal history, is subject to a constancy of focused discussion/counselling.


3. Risk Factors for Bullying

Exposure to adult aggression, conflict and violence, particularly domestic and backgrounds of conflict, power-assertive discipline, domestic violence, uninvolved fathering (for boys) and a domestic environment in which the child feels that their views go unheard. Clearly the children looked after by Childhood First have many of these risk factors and will be particularly prone to being bullied.


4. Risk Factors for Being Bullied

Risk factors for being bullied include:

Identifying the type of children who, through their personal traits, are likely to be vulnerable to bullying is problematic. Of course nobody ever deserves to be bullied, and being bullied is not the victim's fault. Nevertheless, evidence does suggest that victims of bullying may often be somewhat anxious children, with poor social problem-solving skills and a relatively limited ability to read the motivations of others. As a result, they have fewer friends and are more isolated. They also tend to be smaller and weaker than their peers and attackers. Children with Special Educational Needs do not always have the levels of social confidence and competence, and the robust friendship bonds that can protect against bullying. Other research suggests that girls who have been bullied are twice as likely as their non-bullied peers to have been beaten. Victimisation by peers or adults will be destructive of self-esteem; low self-esteem may increase vulnerability to attack, and so a vicious circle of decreasing self-esteem and vulnerability to attack may ensue. Clearly the children looked after by Childhood First have many of these risk factors and will be particularly prone to being bullied.


5. How to Prevent Bullying

Bullying is often a group-condoned activity that will intensify or decrease depending on the actions of those who are not the principal aggressors. The Childhood First methodology, Integrated Systemic Therapy Policy and the central place of the group with external facilitation should help ensure that bullying is tackled as the complex issue it is, not merely as an incident between two people. Additionally staff should be alert to the fact that children will often tell their peers before adults. It is important to pick up on bullying incidents early and never to ignore suspected bullying.  

The ability of staff to identify and tackle bullying and to respond effectively and sensitively will not only help resolve particular incidences of bullying but also to create a culture where further incidences may be prevented. This will include helping those who those who bully to change their behaviour. The Registered Manager should carry out regular risk assessments appertaining to bullying making a note of how frequently children have been bullied, in what ways it has happened, how often children have bullied others, whom they tell, where bullying has taken place and what action was taken and by whom.

A specially designated record / log  will be kept in which all incidents of bullying will be recorded. The details of how these incidents have been addressed will also be recorded in this book. Such incidents will prompt the creation of a Significant Incident Report. Key/Link workers will address any incidents of bullying within the key/link working sessions with the child and record details of the meeting and identify any concerns.


6. Regular Forums

The range of individual and group forums in which children are helped and encouraged to express their views offer many opportunities to discuss and address bullying issues with openness and honesty. The Childhood First methodology, IST promotes a culture of appropriate personal empowerment, and resolution through reasoned discussion and it is the responsibility of staff to set an example which, with our help and support, the children may be enabled to follow. The adults' responsibility is to maintain such a culture through the whole community, house and school, and between, so that children experience the safety of adult observation, intervention and support in working towards resolution and an atmosphere of openness and warmth. These forums provide opportunities for children and young people to learn about keeping safe; to recognize and manage risks in different situations and discuss what kind of behaviours including physical contact is acceptable and unacceptable. Children are helped to learn to recognise when pressure from others threatens their personal safety and develop effective ways of resisting pressure, as well as understanding their own propensities to creating dangerous situations. These forums provide opportunities for the role of the onlooker or bystander or even encourager to be explored and addressed.

Ensuring all children have opportunities to talk individually with key/link workers, and others who they might choose, is important in the provision of a range of forums where they may air worries. It is important when talking to and counselling children to know that an assertive response is often the most effective and also serves to protect the child from any negative psychological impact. In contrast, responding aggressively will tend to exacerbate the situation, and passive responses (for example, ignoring, giving into requests) leave the victim vulnerable to further episodes. An important element to interventions with victims is to improve their coping skills and the way they respond to an incident of bullying

Childhood First is committed to developing and maintaining a group culture within which all individuals are supported in confronting both the external bully and the potential to bully within themselves. Children are thus helped to develop insight into behaviours as well as empathy and assertiveness. The issue of bullying should be embedded within the educational setting, and teachers and house staff liaise closely together with educational colleagues to ensure all issues of bullying are fully addressed.


7. The Peer Group

Bullying involves many more children than just the bullies and their victims; and it is this growing realisation that has refocused much modern research away from the psychological make-up of the victim and the bully, and onto the social context in which the aggressive behaviour unfolds. The mechanisms which maintain the problem, but are also the keys for preventing and intervening, it, often lie within the peer group. As Childhood First's client group is particularly prone to being both being bullied and bullying close attention is paid to how children may take up the position of victim/aggressor and may become emotionally locked into one of these extremes or fluctuate between the two.


8. What To Do if you Become Aware of Bullying

  • Immediately report any known, or suspected, incidence of bullying. Swift adult intervention should be made, always prioritising the physical safety of the child being bullied; bystanders who intervene; or other children who report bullying. The most senior member of staff on duty at the time will decide how this is best affected. Serious incidences may need treating as a Child Protection concern. See Child Protection Referrals Procedure;
  • The Director should be informed to ensure that any incidence of bullying is explored within the community meeting;
  • Assumptions should not be made; listen carefully to all accounts - several children saying the same does not necessarily mean they are telling the truth;
  • Inform the key/link worker who will provide any follow up counselling work, feedback to parents and/or social worker and reflect in review report;
  • Record physical bullying as a significant incident;
  • Feed any incidence of bullying to the staff group through the daily feedback meeting;
  • Reintegrate the child who has been bullied and, where possible, the child who has bullied;
  • All incidents must be recorded in the Community Daily Log and relevant child's Daily Record;
  • The child's Placement Plan should be reviewed with a view to incorporating strategies to reduce or prevent future incidents;
  • The Director is responsible for reviewing the incidence and nature of the bullying in the community as part of the regular audits, see Monitoring Quality Procedure.


9. Sanctions

Also see: Sanctions Procedure.

Depending on the situation, a sanction may be imposed, according to the type and severity of bullying and further to dynamic exploration of the incident. The bully may be temporarily removed from the group or class, or participation in trips may be withheld.

Physical bullying is likely to result in grounding. Deliberate damage of property is likely to result in financial restitution. As described, many children we work with have an increased propensity to bully and it is part of the task to work with this problem and it is understood that such issues take time to change. In rare or extreme cases however, persistent bullying or bullying consisting of serious violence could ultimately place an individual child's placement in jeopardy and could even result in suspension or placement termination. Such a response would not happen without careful thought and only where all efforts to resolve it were unsuccessful and other children were at real risk of harm.


10. Establishing a Safe Culture

From the outset of a placement each child will be made aware that bullying is not tolerated. Instances of bullying will not be ignored or minimised but will be named in open meetings where incidents will be considered and resolutions found.

As part of making this explicit and clear all children, taken into consideration their chronological and developmental ages, will be expected to sign an anti-bullying agreement. In doing this they acknowledge that they do not wish to live within an environment where bullying persists.

Training will be provided for all staff in order to help them affect this policy that will incorporate a range of strategies and sanctions designed to reduce bullying. All children will be encouraged to participate in clarifying and developing these strategies.