Enquire made a trip to the Scottish Borders recently to meet up with the young folk who are part of the Youth Commission on Bullying.
The commissioners have been appointed to find out the views that lots of different people have about bullying, including pupils, parents, police and teachers. They want to stimulate debate on bullying in all its forms, including racism, homophobia and cyber bullying, and get people thinking about its impact on young people and what can be done to make things better. The commissioners will be making recommendations to the council in March 2012 about how to prevent and manage bullying.
If you’d rather read about what the Commissioners said rather than listening, here is the transcript.
Angus: The Youth Commission on Bullying was set up to tackle the Education Department’s policy on bullying and how it is dealt with in schools. We are looking to change it and make it easier for people to tackle bullying and effectively prevent it.
Enquire:So how many youth commissioners are there?
Claire:There are 12 youth commissioners ranging from 14 to 22 years.
Enquire:So what age are you guys?
Amy:I’ve just recently turned 17 and I’m at school.
Angus: I’m turning 18 in January and am leaving on a gap year.
Claire:I’m 22 and a newly qualified teacher, so I’m doing a probationary year.
Enquire:So you’re quite a diverse bunch. What made you want to be a youth commissioner?
Amy:In my younger years I’d actually suffered from bullying myself, well, not just my younger years but at the start of high school too, so I kind of know what it is like. And I learnt how to deal with it myself, but I know that a lot of people might not necessarily be as strong minded…
Enquire:So it’s quite a personal experience that has prompted you.
Amy:Yeah, I just wanted to tackle it from a different perspective and have my say about how to edit policy.
Angus: Yeah, very similar… when I was little I was bullied quite a lot and didn’t really receive much help until later on in high school. But I’ve got through it and I just want to make a difference for everyone else who is affected by bullying and who have been bullied.
Claire:Well, from my point of view, a few placements that I have done during university [studying to be a teacher] in primary schools there was quite a diverse sorts… you know, different sorts of bullying going in the classrooms and I felt that personally I was at a disadvantage because I hadn’t had sufficient training at university. And also the other professionals I was working with in the schools felt that they needed more help in how to deal with it. So, it’s for my own professionalism to help me develop strategies to help children within my care and to raise awareness that we [teachers} aren’t completely trained in how to deal with it at university.
Enquire:Wow, it’s really interesting, such diverse reasons. So how do you think that being bullied stops a young person from being able to get the most out of school?
Amy:Well if they are being bullied then their mind is more focused on that, and it’s not necessarily completely focused on that, but in their subconscious it is still there. So they find it difficult sometimes because it’s in the back of their mind or it kind of builds this paranoia in them, and it can erode at them a little bit. It can really affect people’s school work, and how they concentrate in classes… And how they interact with other people, so it can affect their relationships that really they can develop, or they can’t.
Angus: I think it does stop people learning at school. It makes people scared and not want to turn up to school… It does, it has a big effect on learning and how people react at school.
Claire:I think from my perspective it’s seeing children being reserved, being scared to do things, and us not knowing how to help them… you can see that they are completely not focused on their work. They do things because they think it’s what they should be doing to gain the respect from their peers. So I think it’s really important that we try to address those issues and find a way to prevent bullying.
Enquire:Who has the Youth Commission spoken to so far in your local community to try to find out people’s views on bullying?
Amy:Well, initially I did a series of interviews with identified LGBT people in my school to conjure up a sense of whether that actually affected their school work and if it did – like homophobic bullying (either verbal, physical or mental). And that was really intriguing and it was also very shocking, some of the results I found out.
Angus: We’ve also spoken to local community police officers that have quite a wide range of views on bullying as such, because they have to deal with it throughout the Scottish Borders and they have a lot to say.
Claire:I’m part of the school based bullying workstream [of the Youth Commission] and for that we have targeted the education department, looking at the people who are writing the policy [on bullying] and who have written the last policy. We intend to also speak to teachers and parents, and surveys are currently being made up. We’re going to go to parents’ evenings in certain schools, and there’s also going to be a survey monkey form that goes round, not just teachers but other people who work there, like classroom assistants….
Enquire:School councillors, guidance teachers…
Claire:Yeah, everyone. Not just the teachers. To try to get a varied response.
Enquire:What extra support do you think might make school better for young people affected by bullying?
Amy:Well, recently Peebles High School has started the development of a peer counselling group. They feel that children will be more willing to talk to students rather than pastoral staff. The counselling group, they’re learning from LGBT Youth Scotland, which is tackling homophobic bullying and cyber bullying with the local police. So that’s like their main focus points, but they’ll obviously be there for peer counselling, so they’re training them up for that….
Enquire:So that they can support young people facing bullying….
Claire:I think that we still need to find out from our survey if it’s happening already, cos we are not sure, but work with more outside agencies who specialise in tackling bullying… we’re not sure if they are going into schools and training people.
Enquire:So you feel that teachers need to have more training so that they are able to support the young people?
Claire:Definitely, and I also think that the [bullying] policy has to be more rigid and specify what teachers are supposed to do…. because if it happens out of school, are teachers to take no responsibility or are they responsible, I think that right now no one really knows, or people pretend not to know because they don’t want to have to take responsibility. It needs to be more clearcut.
Enquire:Is there anything else you think would make school better for people being bullied?
Angus:Just general support, being there for them when they come to you, listening, being able to say to them “we’re here to help”. That’s someone that they can look up to, someone that they are not frightened to come forward to with their problems.
Claire:I think it all depends on the ethos of the school… there’s a report on bullying and they can tell from all the schools in the Borders who has reported bullying. And it’s been really interesting to see that some schools have reported absolutely no incidences, but other schools have reported more. Are they saying that bullying isn’t an issue? Are people recording it because they think that it is an issue and they have that ethos to prevent it and to help people?
Enquire:So what advice would you give to a young person who is being bullied at school?
Angus:The advice I would give, that I found quite useful, from my previous experiences, is – definitely talk to someone. It’s the best thing that you can do, and you have to know that you don’t need to go through this alone. There’s people out there you can talk to, whether it be your parents, your brother, your sister, your best friend… It’s always best to talk to someone. Let someone know it’s happening, and they can help you through it…