How schools are striving to beat bullying

By McIvor Times

HEATHCOTE parents could be suffering just as much as their children as a result of school bullying, according to a recent report from the Royal Children’s Hospital.

But rest assured, our Heathcote schools are on a mission to stop it.

In an alarming result, one in five parents noted that one or more of their children had been bullied in the last term at school.

Almost every parent (89 per cent) of a child who was bullied said the experience had affected the whole family.

One in six parents had felt physically sick, and one in five felt depressed or anxious.

Almost half (48 per cent) worried about the long-term effects of bullying on their child, while 44 per cent were angry and frustrated at being unable to help.

It has been an issue for ever, so what are Heathcote schools doing to combat it? Everything in their power.

Heathcote Primary principal Kate Ballantyne said the first step was for parents and guardians to understand the term ‘bullying’.

“Bullying is when someone, or a group of people, deliberately upset or hurt another person or damage their property, reputation or social acceptance on more than one occasion. There is an imbalance of power in incidents of bullying with the bully or bullies having more power at the time due to age, size, status or other reasons,” she said.

“Many distressing behaviours are not examples of bullying even though they are unpleasant and often require teacher intervention and management.”

Mrs Ballantyne said for example, issues such as mutual conflict, social rejection or dislike and single-episode acts of nastiness or aggression were not bullying unless they involved deliberate repeated attempts.

“If someone is verbally abused or pushed on one occasion they are not being bullied. However, this does not mean that single episodes of nastiness or physical aggression should be ignored or condoned as these are unacceptable behaviours.

“When you consider the above, ‘bullying’ is an overused term.

“The true definition means the behaviour is targeted and is continuous over time. Bullying in the true sense of the word is never acceptable and needs to be dealt with as soon as reported.”

Mrs Ballantyne said Heathcote Primary was equipping students with the skills to develop resilience and being able report bad behaviour so it can be followed up.

“Students need to have a ‘toolbox’ with a range of strategies that can assist them when confronted with unacceptable situations. Developing skills and calling out bad behaviour needs to be done in partnership with parents too.

“Heathcote Primary works strongly on being respectful to others, this is supported by the DET Respectful Relationships curriculum. The way we play, speak and engage with others should demonstrate and model respectful treatment of our peers.”

Mrs Ballantyne said the school was continuing to work on not being a ‘bystander’. Standing up for a fellow student or reporting the behaviour can lead to it stopping.

“In the past two years we have seen a significant difference in the way our students interact with each other. As a school there has been a significant change in the follow-up and implementation of consistent consequences; this has enabled a positive culture to develop in the way students treat each other and staff.

“Bullying is not a simple word, it needs to be clearly understood and reported so it can be followed up quickly. Bullying in the true sense of the word is never OK and is certainly not accepted in our school.”

Holy Rosary School principal Paul Dullard said the school had made significant progress in tackling bullying.

“Holy Rosary has a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying in its school and community,” Mr Dullard said.

“Such a policy enables staff and parents to talk to the students about the school’s expectations of ‘Respect for Self, Others and the Environment and to be Safe’ in a positive way.”

The school has implemented different programs in recent times to help students enjoy their time at school.

“Students participate in cyber safety workshops, healthy relationships programs, as well as well-being and leadership initiatives provided through the Catholic Education Office.

“The school focuses on the positives of every day and identifies and names the good things that children do through awards systems and classroom activities.

‘‘We also track behaviour data within the school so that all staff are aware of any incidents and are able to support the children to overcome issues.

“Schools are great places to be and every school, Holy Rosary included, makes every effort to ensure all children in its care are loved, respected and nurtured to optimise their learning potential.”