Disclosure – this is a guest post by the UK’s first Children’s Happiness Coach, Simon Benn. (image credit)
I was once called into a school to do some happiness workshops but they didn’t really want to tell me why. When I pressed them for a brief, I was told: “to encourage the Year 4s to be nicer to one another in the playground, especially the girls.” Bullying was not mentioned.
On the day they’d booked me I was sitting in reception waiting for the teacher to collect me before the first session. A mother who’d just dropped off her daughter asked me who I was and what I was doing. She’d heard something from her daughter about the session. Once I’d explained what I’d planned for the day, she nodded knowingly and moved on. Clearly, there’d been issues at the school but it seemed that everyone refused to use the word ‘bullying’.
Not taking it seriously
If your child is being bullied and you address it with the school, they may say ‘we’ll look into it’. They know you’re emotional. They want to defuse the situation. You may feel they are not taking it seriously. Your teacher and the school will have come across bullying before. This may mean that they’re likely to be desensitised to it. If they are, it will affect their reaction to the news and they’re likely to be less emotional about it than you. It’s not their child of course. They’re not being heartless they’ve just seen it before. However, remember teachers want their schools to be happy places of learning. They’ve got professional pride so make sure they do look into it – always follow up and find out what is being done to address the problem.
Teachers know bullies don’t pick on others in plain view of the teaching staff. Their hands are tied until they can see it actually happening. They know the bully’s parents are going to back their own child to the hilt publicly, even if not privately. They may also suggest your child is too sensitive. The teacher might say or imply that it’s your child’s fault/problem/over-sensitivity. They may even suggest you’re being too sensitive. When it comes to your children’s happiness, you can never be too sensitive.
Schools do not want bad PR and social media. Bad news travels like wildfire, damages their reputation, reduces the number of parents wanting to send their children to the school and this threatens the school’s budget (school funding is per head). No wonder they may want to downplay bullying.
At one school, I collected compelling proof from the pupils on what they’d learned about managing their emotions and being nicer to one another after the workshops. The headteacher refused to discuss it – I believe it was because the children all mentioned the word ‘bullying’.
Headteachers are the ones who put in the anti-bullying procedures and so are invested in them working. Teachers don’t put in the procedures so are less invested but may hide behind them. It’s like dealing with someone in a call centre – they’re just following procedure but this isn’t a faulty product we’ve ordered online! It’s our child’s happiness. And the knock-on effect that has on our happiness.
Heads have to take into account Ofsted rules too. In March, Ofsted said it may cease reporting on frequency of bullying in school because the Inspectorate says it wants to stop giving schools an incentive to hide the problem! I’ve helped more than 1600 children understand how to be happy and what I’ve learned is that parents are used to teachers taking the lead and taking care of what needs to be done. However, many parents of bullied children have told me that when it comes to bullying, teachers don’t always take the lead.
I recently conducted a survey amongst parents of children who have been bullied and 75% were dissatisfied with how the schools deal with bullying. I hope you’ll be in the 25% who were satisfied. However, if not, I hope the advice above helps.
If you’d like more support, get in touch with me: www.bully-proof.com