This week has been National Anti-Bullying Week. In fact, the whole month of November has been Anti-Bullying month.
In the student survey most of you completed, 60% of you said you have never been bullied here at School. And while that is a high number, it does mean that 40% of you have experienced bullying here. And that saddens me. What is interesting is that 91% of you say that you have never bullied someone. So either it's a very small number of you who are bullying the rest, or there is a difference of opinion about bullying. I think it is the latter; you have different opinions about what bullying is.
So, simply put, bullying is any behaviour that is intended to cause distress or harm. It can be physical, or mental. It can be subtle, or full on. It can be online, or whispers in the corner.
It is not disagreeing with someone else and having an argument or falling out over something.
Bullying is usually about power. It is when someone feels that they can make themselves feel better by making someone else feel worse.
When you have an argument with someone, or fall out over something, you can say nasty things, or even be physical towards them. This is not bullying. It is not good, and people get hurt when they fall out, but there is still the chance and willingness to put it right.
The thing about bullying is that it is one person having power over someone else. In the extreme, it is a bully physically threatening the victim & causing harm. Persistent, real, physical harm.
But it's also the more subtle control. Making someone feel small, or making them doubt themselves. Making their successes feel like nothing.
Or there's the bullying by excluding. Making someone feel like no-one wants to play with them or be with them.
You've all had many talks from different people about bullying, and yet it still goes on. A significant number of you have said that you feel like you are being bullied. And so it is going on.
There's three things I want to say about bullying. One thing aimed at anyone who has been bullied and two things to everyone.
To anyone who feels bullied:
It is hard to imagine it, but it can and will stop. You can make it stop. First of all, in the short term, a piece of advice:- No-one can make you feel small, inferior, without you letting them have that control over you. It is you and who you are, and you can choose how to respond.
Now, you may well say to yourself; what does he know? He's the head teacher - no-one bullies him. I know more than you realise. I was bullied at school, by a significant group of other students. I do know how you feel.
Also, you can take control. Don't lash out and fight the bully, because that will only get you into trouble as well. I know about that too - I did lash out once & got into a lot of trouble because of it.
Instead, tell someone. It will not make things worse. The bully wants you to believe that, so they can go on bullying you! Instead, tell someone. An adult.
In the same survey you took, a quarter of you said that you wouldn't speak to anyone if you were bullied. And I can appreciate that, but if you don't do something about it, nothing will change. And that is a horrible place to be, mentally.
Here in school, you can talk to any adult you trust and feel will listen. In an ideal world, you would tell your form tutor, Mrs Simpson if you are in year 8, or Ms Mooney if you are in year 7, but if they are not around, or you would rather talk to someone else, that's absolutely fine! We are also creating an email address, so you can report the fact that you are being bullied when you feel safe to do so, without seeming to go to talk to an adult. And you can come and talk to me at any time too.
To everyone else:
First of all, you all have the potential to be a bully. Anyone can find someone weaker than themselves & use that person to make them self feel better. But how sad is it to rely on putting someone else down to make yourself feel better?! Do you really value yourself so little that you have to make someone else feel bad in order to feel ok yourself?
We've had a few instances this week of behaviour that falls below what I expect of you and that saddens me. It's not always been bullying, but aggressive, hurtful behaviour is never acceptable. And it's not just the physical that saddens me either - there has been a number of occasions where some of you have really upset others by what you've said, or how you've behaved.
Sometimes it can be hard, because you get frustrated with someone else, but that's what it's all about - being tolerant and understanding that some people see things differently to you. It is important to be humble enough to accept someone else for who they are. Even when (no, especially when) they are annoying you with how they are.
If you want to be 'big' or impress others, do it by showing how tolerant and accepting you can be of others. That's the really impressive thing.
And finally, to all of you, we are a community. That means we all accept responsibility for everyone else. Not one of you can look me in the eye and say that the bullying is nothing to do with you. If any of you allow someone else to hurt another member of the community, you are no better than the bully yourself. That may sound harsh, but it is true. We all need to look out for each other.