Sometimes bullying is invisible or when it does happen, not everyone is aware of it. It can ruin children’s lives, research shows that its effects can last well into adulthood in terms of impact on emotional, physical and mental health.
Bullying is a common problem for all partners although in different ways; Turkish partners have problems with boys fighting, in UK main issue is cyberbullying and sexting, in Romanian school the main issue is early drop out. In Portugal, according to No Bully Portugal, a platform which fights bullying, one in every three children suffers from bullying at school. And its results are devastating as many drop out school, have learning difficulties and in extreme cases, even try to kill themselves. Like in the UK, cyberbullying is also becoming a serious problem at schools. In all cases the effects are the same: students miss off education and sometimes the issue spills between families. For instance, statistic show that bullied in childhood are more likely to experience mental health issues including self-harm and depression, not be in employment, education or training, be obese earn less money than their peers. The Greek school has dealt with serious incidents of cyberbullying, sometimes "inherited" by the primary schools of the area from where the pupils come. There is also a lot of bullying between pupils from the different villages of the area, who when they come to school they tend to isolate themselves and tease pupils from other villages. It is important that the school community have a shared understanding about what bullying is and what it isn’t. Misconceptions and unwillingness sometimes to confront unpleasant realities can also present barriers to effective approaches.
In our project the aim is to share and develop strategies that will provide better awareness about bullying for: teachers and other staff in school so that they can spot the bullying and know how to support individuals; students (victims and bystanders) so that they feel that they can report incidents; parents so that they have ways to support their children and that they work with school’s guidance.
It is further important to concentrate on more vulnerable young people with mental health and/or disability as they are less likely to come forward and say ‘I’m being bullied’ and say this is what’s happening to me.
Teachers need to be on the look out to intervene and this is what all the partner schools need to develop. Bullying is about imbalance of power. The bully is more dominating than the victim, by direct (hitting) or more often indirect (spreading rumours). Learning how to identify and then respond to bullying behaviour at the earliest possible opportunity is the key to ensuring that these behaviours do not endure and that the children and young people are kept safe.
We aim to develop strategies that will encourage students to feel included and to install culture that celebrates individuality, that we’re all different but we have equal rights to learn, to be heard and to prosper. This is why we have included a further horizontal objective about cultural heritage. It is important that we share cultural differences such as different ways that boys and girls bully and whether there is more or less problem with one gender/economic status/ethic background that inheritably bullies.
We will be adopting different strategies to educate and inform teachers and students of necessities of being more tolerant and understanding. Sometimes young people do not always recognise the impact of their behaviour on others and we aim to promote acquisition of skills and competences, the third objective. It is our aim to plan activities that will enable students to develop better communication skills and to insure that they become more confident of who they are; to deal with conflicts in amicable way; to instil a culture of mutual conflict resolutions. For this not just students needed to be skilled but also teachers and other staff who work in each of the school such as helpers and pastoral workers. We are planning to have different themes that will expand during the duration of the project, each one will be building on better understanding of issues caused by bullying, ideas and activities that will develop skills and competences in children and staff:
- Theme one: Make a noise about bullying – What is bullying? Different types of bullying including: physical/mental/verbal/direct/indirect Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, cyberbullying. How and why it happens? The role of bystanders. Bullying and gangs. The activities planned in this theme will give students and staff involved give a good understanding of what bullying is, what relational conflict is and importantly what roles are involved in bullying incidents. Partners will be able to compare how different or similar issues of bullying are in each setting and share best practice.
- Theme two: All different all equal – Race and faith targeted, sexual and gender related – celebration of what makes them and others different – Preventing bullying – ABC of bullying prevention In this theme the activities are going to promote individualities such as sharing of different cultures, believes, sexuality and race. It is promoting social inclusion, being valued and having a sense of belonging especially with students who feel marginalised.
- Theme three: Words can hurt more than you know – Bullying and special educational needs/disability (SEND). This theme explores vulnerability of SEND students. The activities will cover strategies that recognises that bullying accrued.
- Theme four: We’re better without bullying – Bullying and the law. Students and staff need to know what laws protect victims of bullying, as well as ‘ringleaders’ and bystanders. Particular attention is going to be made to each country’s laws, cyberbullying and sexting (exploitation). This is fostering objective of Promoting the acquisition of skills and competences as it enables all parties to know the rules/laws and consequences of bullying.
- Theme five:Taking Action Together – Anti Bullying policy – responding to bullying as whole school The best way to respond to bullying is to do as a whole school setting. This means that everyone from students, teachers, parents and other staff connected to the school has a clear idea of values
and responsibilities. Devising whole school policy with all parties involved is best practice. Partners from schools will review their current practices and learn from each other as well as listen to guidance from professional bodies such as Anti Bullying Alliance in UK ….
- Theme six:This is a bully fee zone – Peer mentoring – prevention and support. This is where students are being trained on how to become Anti Bully mentors, learning the skills to listen and become first port of call in reporting system. With this supporting role as well as other strategies covered in earlier themes, the school should become more inclusive and safer place to learn.