It’s undeniable that huge strides have been made in the UK in raising awareness around the issue of bullying in schools. The Anti-Bullying Alliance reported that 80% of UK schools – that’s 7.5million children and young people – took part in their annual Anti-Bullying Week campaign last year. Of those, 86% of young people felt that the awareness campaign helped to tackle bullying at their school. An incredible achievement.
So, why are we asking schools to measure their community’s experience of bullying? In a sector awash with data collection, assessment and monitoring, is this yet another item on their to-do list? Is it another stick to beat them with?
The truth is that, whilst huge progress has been made, bullying stubbornly remains in our education system with approximately 1 child in every classroom experiencing bullying every day. The long-term effects of childhood bullying are well known with negative consequences on mental, physical and relational health for both victim and bully.
Worryingly, these stats don’t give us the full picture. Some studies have shown that there is a significant gap between schools’ perception of the problem vs the reported experience of children - around 30%. More worryingly still, 40% of children do not disclose incidents of bullying to parents.
As adults, it’s our duty to protect children and young people from harm. As the saying goes, we “treasure what we measure” and what can be more precious than our children’s welfare and mental health?
So how do we measure experiences of bullying well in school communities? Below we suggest a few things to think about before you get started.
- What will you ask?: Measuring a topic such as bullying can be highly sensitive and triggering for some members of your community. Careful consideration needs to be made to what you’re asking and how these questions are phrased. BounceTogether and Kidscape have created these free Kindness Surveys for students, staff and parent/carers with a focus on pro-social behaviour. The results from your surveys can then be used to design relevant activities for Anti-Bullying Week, to inform future relationships education, and to consider further training or ongoing support needs.
- How and where: You will need to think carefully about how and where you administer a survey on this topic. Would class time be a suitable place to take the survey or could the survey be made available during personal time when respondents might feel more open? Is it possible to give them a choice? For any group of respondents, this shouldn't be seen as a test, so stay away from exam conditions and allow them ample time to complete or come back to the survey if they need to.
- Think about anonymity: There are pros and cons to running a survey anonymously. You won’t identify individuals who might need specific support but some argue that you might get a more honest response. This could highlight wider issues that need to be addressed with certain groups or as a whole-school community. If you do run your survey anonymously, it’s important to signpost individuals to the best place for support and help should they need it – whether that be your school Wellbeing Lead or Counsellor, or one of the many impartial organisations set up to support young people and adults.
- Ensure accessibility: You want each and every member of your community to be able to contribute their experience. Ensuring that your survey is accessible and inclusive to all is essential. As part of this, you should make sure that your questions are worded appropriately for the age range of your audience and that the additional needs of SEN or EAL students are catered for. Programmes like BounceTogether offer immersive reader technology to help ensure our surveys are fully inclusive.
- Action your data: Running a survey will provide you with a picture of what is happening in your setting. Once you have that information it is imperative that you do something about any issues that have been highlighted. Engaging your students in solutions, where appropriate, can be a powerful way of addressing these issues and will give them a sense of collective ownership. Consider how to provide an opportunity for your children to get involved such as through the school council or student workshops and empower them to be part of the solution alongside your SLT and teaching team.
- Don’t make it a one-off: Anti-Bullying Week is a great springboard to start talking to your community about their experiences of relationships and bullying. Use it to spark a continuing dialogue which should include regular and timely check-ins with your children, staff and parents/carers about what’s happening for them.
BounceTogether is an online mental health and wellbeing survey platform designed for schools. It provides access to over 60 validated surveys across 12 categories with presentation-ready results at the touch of a button. Our instant analysis will keep your finger on the pulse of wellbeing and monitor your progress in developing a whole-school approach to wellbeing.