A recent decision of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) provides a useful reminder of the importance of schools having and implementing their own anti-bullying policies.
The complaint, against the Highland Council, was that they had failed to ensure that the school attended by the complainant’s daughter had an anti-bullying policy in place. The SPSO upheld the complaint. Although the Council’s own policy was thorough, the Ombudsman found that the school did not have its own policy in place that sufficiently met the requirements of the council’s policy.
The SPSO recommended that the council:
- apologise to Miss C and Miss A for the failings identified in this case; and
- reflect on the failings identified and advise us of the actions they will take to address these.
“A National Approach to Anti-Bullying for Scotland’s Children and Young People” (Scottish Government, 2010) was drawn up by the Scottish Anti-Bullying Steering Group (SABS) which included representation from a number of relevant public and voluntary sector bodies.
The National Approach adopts a definition of bullying which is focussed on its impact on those experiencing it:
“Bullying can be understood as behaviour which leaves people feeling helpless, frightened, anxious, depressed or humiliated.” (p4)
It sets anti-bullying firmly in the context of GIRFEC and the Curriculum for Excellence, and adopts as one of its key principles:
“We will seek to prevent and tackle bullying, through the development and implementation of effective anti-bullying policies and practices … We will address the needs of children and young people who are bullied as well as those who bully within a framework of respect, responsibility, resolution and support” (p8)
A school’s anti-bullying policy and practice are therefore seen as the main ways in which preventing and tackling bullying is done.
The National Approach is clear that all organisations that work with children and young people should develop and implement an anti-bullying policy.
It goes on to specify that anti-bullying policies should include the following (p9):
- a statement which lays out the organisational stance on bullying behaviour;
a definition of bullying, developed through consultation creating a shared understanding between all parties involved;
- expectations or codes of behaviour and responsibilities for staff and children and young people;
- preventative and reactive strategies showing what an organisation commits itself to, what strategies it will employ when faced with bullying incidents or allegations and to prevent bullying from happening;
- clarity on how and how often the organisation will communicate its anti-bullying policy and to whom; and how parents and carers will be informed of incidents;
- the recording and monitoring strategies that will be used for management purposes; and
- how and how often the policy will be evaluated to understand how successful and effective the policy is.
By following the National Approach, schools will be best placed to create a strong anti-bullying ethos and to respond effectively to incidents of bullying as they arise.
Image credit: By Alejandrasotomange (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons