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Anti-Bullying Week at City Year

Last week, our Volunteer Mentors at City Year UK took part in #AntiBullyingWeek. After a week of workshops and reflections, members of Team Lighthouse and Team Joy have created this special piece on bullying prevention in their schools — as well as their own personal experiences of being on the receiving end of bullying, and the resulting feelings that come along with it.

Boy looking upset with his elbow covering his face

Although the prevention of bullying is promoted throughout the school year, #AntiBullyingWeek highlights the impacts of bullying, and what we as Volunteer Mentors can do to discourage it. Following an informative session on anti-bullying, Volunteer Mentors in Greater Manchester were inspired to carry out anti-bullying initiatives within their schools, and to reflect on what Anti-Bullying Week means to them.

Amelia at Mossfield Primary School explains the importance of Anti-Bullying Week: “The effects of childhood bullying are deeply felt and they go beyond providing a miserable school experience. Its impact lasts well into adulthood. Effects include mental health problems and low self-esteem. When in school, those bullied are less likely to achieve high grades, and are more likely to drop out or fail their studies altogether. A staggering 24% of children bullied are likely to be kept off school by their parents. This is vital education that bullied children lose out on. Fortunately, I have not experienced bullying, however it is immoral that others are a victim through no fault of their own. No child should feel afraid to come to school.”

The adverse effects that Amelia emphasised are mirrored in Tsvetan’s own experiences. Tsvetan, who also is based at Mossfield Primary School, says: “From year 1–6, I lived in Greece, where I was constantly labelled “Bulgarian”. This is seen as a negative label, due to historical issues. Yet when I returned to Bulgaria, the abuse continued — and this time I was called “Greek”. Impacts of this bullying included anger, self-resentment and emotional issues since I blamed myself — partly because I could not stand up for myself. And these issues were exacerbated by my lack of trust in both my teachers and my family, due to fear of worsened bullying. I do not want any child to face the loneliness I did during this period… and children should know that help is available to them.”

To help mitigate stories like Tsvetan, Volunteer Mentors like Laura, have worked hard over the past week. At her school, Crab Lane Primary, the children not only learned about the importance of being kind, but also that giving and receiving compliments allows them and their peers to grow. How did Laura implement this? One way was through randomly assigning each child a classmate, for whom they wrote compliments on the fingers of a hand template. They were all very pleased when they received their compliments, which will be going on display as a continual reminder.

Work like Laura’s has been of significance this year, as explained by Amelia: “I believe that Anti-Bullying Week is especially important this year as the reopening of schools means children have to re-establish friendship groups”, she says. “This can cause a lot of conflict, particularly if children felt helpless during the lockdown, but now see the opportunity to regain some kind of ‘power’, in the form of bullying.”

However, Anti-Bullying Week is not the only solution. For example, Mossfield Primary also follows the KiVa program, where preventative lessons are taught throughout the school year. KiVa has clear positive effects: reduced levels of anxiety and depression, and reductions in all forms of bullying. Children also gain a greater understanding of what is classed as bullying. Additionally, KiVa has clear guidelines for bullying interventions. Scientific evidence of this international programme suggests that it should be implemented into more schools.

Anti-Bullying Week is a time to highlight the techniques that schools can implement in order to prevent the long-term negative psychological effects of bullying. Programs such as KiVa and techniques such as compliment-writing aim to teach children the values of kindness and inclusion, with the goal of stopping bullying at its roots. Amelia sums up the need for anti-bullying initiatives. perfectly: “It takes a collective responsibility to stop bullying. We all have a role to play in helping to create a society where bullying is recognised for what it is, and where its victims are able to get the best possible support from those around them”.

Therefore, Anti-Bullying Week is important not only for the children, but for people who work with children too, to remind them of their influence and ability to impact young lives.

Thank you to our Volunteer Mentors for their contributions and for creating this piece: John, Daisy, Eloise, Amelia, Jaimie, Abbie and Tsvetan for Team Lighthouse, and Laura for Team Joy!

Photography by Jaimie

If you are experiencing bullying or know someone who is, please visit anti-bullying alliance.org.uk, or @ABAOnline on Twitter for information and resources — because no one should ever have to experience bullying, whether that’s in school or not. Be kind, be thoughtful… and be a friend, not a bully.

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