14 November 2018
This week is Anti-Bullying Week – dedicated to raising awareness about bullying and the damage it can cause. The theme this year is ‘Choose Respect’. It is a stark reminder that whether we are young or old, while we don’t all have to be best friends, we do all have to be respectful to one another.
Diverse opinions co-exist around every possible topic – from parenting to politics, pets to pop stars. Different opinions can stimulate discussion, make us laugh, or let us see life from another person’s point of view. But some people seem to find it difficult to disagree and yet remain courteous and respectful to others. You can see this through name-calling on Twitter, where those 280 characters can often descend into name-calling and spite. Social media and the Internet are undoubtedly providing new challenges in terms of tackling bullying – it is very easy to hide behind a keyboard and write things that one wouldn’t dare to say in person. Alarmingly, according to a report by Ofcom, 1 in 8 children have been bullied on social media.
Of course, these traits aren’t limited to social media – they are common on the playing field and playground, in the press and even Parliament. For example, senior doctors across the Highlands have called for an investigation into allegations of bullying in the NHS. The House of Lords Commission has just asked its external members to establish an independent inquiry into bullying and harassment, and in the House of Commons a prominent businessman has recently been outed as having allegedly bullied his employees. He has described his prior behaviour towards staff as ‘banter’; no matter the veracity of the allegations, this is a timely reminder not to downplay instances of bullying or hurtful behaviour towards others as ‘just banter’. These examples show that bullying can be pervasive well into adulthood. According to research from the Anti-Bullying Alliance, over 40% of the 1,001 children surveyed had seen grown-ups bullying each other in the last six months, and 97% said they would like to see more respect shown between grown-ups.
Sadly, bullying can also be prevalent among young people. Worrying statistics from the Department of Education show that 40% of young people were bullied in the last 12 months. Name calling is the most common form of bullying, followed by exclusion from social groups.
Here at St Mary’s we are lucky to live in a school that values diversity – we positively welcome the new, the different and the quirky. Here, our students’ well-being is just as important as their exam results. But we can’t afford to be complacent – it is important to remind ourselves that as one united family we must always take care of each other.
One of our Mary Ward characteristics which we are focusing on this year is eliminating injustice. As school we are clear that not only do we reject bullying, pettiness and nastiness, but we also understand that bullying is a behaviour choice. We must do all we can to challenge the unjust behaviour of others, whether we see it in teenagers or adults, online or offline, to create a society in which kindness can prevail over pettiness and jealousy.