"I Am Not Scared" Project
Issues of Transfer from Primary to Secondary School
On the way to school an Y8 (aged 12) boy kicked and name called an Y7 boy. There had been an issue between the two at Primary School and the Y8 student wanted to continue this ‘issue’. The Y8 boy is an outgoing character and the Y7 boy is very quiet.
This happened three mornings in a row and by the third morning the Y7 boy presented in school very upset and informed his form tutor of what had happened. He had not informed anyone prior to this.
When we were made aware of the incident we reassured the Y7 student that he had done the correct thing by informing us, he was very scared of reprisals from the Y8 boy who is physically much stronger than him. We explained to the Y7 boy that when addressing this issue with the Y8 we would not use his name and would instead say that older students had witnessed the event and informed me in my role as Vice Principal.
The teacher spoke with the Y8, saying it had been reported to him by older concerned students, and he admitted his actions straight away. He could not give a reason for them, other than the issue at Primary School; he did show some remorse for his actions. He was given break/lunch detentions and we contacted his parent, who was supportive. We set up work work with him on actions and feelings through positive support and also arranged access to counselling.
Unfortunately he was involved in a similar incident with another student the following week and received one day fixed term exclusion as a culmination of the two events.
Turning to the victim we informed the victim’s parents and our Community Liaison Officer meets with the Y7 boy on a weekly basis just to ‘catch up’ and check there have been no further issues (he has found transition to Secondary School difficult) At present there has been no repetition of the incident.
The Y7 boy had been saying he was feeling ill prior to school and asking parents if he could have the day off – they were aware something was wrong but he would not share what with them. The Y7 boy was anxious about walking to and from school and felt unable to concentrate in the classroom, his enjoyment of school certainly decreased significantly during this period and emotionally he found Secondary School very challenging, stating that he wanted to return to his Primary School.
This issue highlighted his fragile self esteem and we have done lots of work with him on this, including encouraging him to stand for the Youth Council (he was successfully elected) and ensuring that he has regular contact with key members of staff who take a real interest in him, build his self esteem and assure him that he dealt with the incident in the correct way and that it was not his fault.
With regard to the Y8 student, he showed remorse for the incident but struggled to understand the impact of his actions, which he felt were minor, or show empathy towards his victim. As detailed above he is accessing counseling and positive support to help him address his own issues, he is engaging in these interventions and will hopefully be able to move forward. There are issues with underachievement in some areas for him but we are hoping the interventions will help him. We also have a CAF in place for him.
Both sets of parents were happy with the action taken and supportive of the school. The Y7 student’s parents now have confidence in the school to deal with any other concerns.
It was disappointing that, although other students witnessed the event, they did not report it. We have introduced a poster campaign encouraging students to take positive action if they see bullying, focusing on ‘there’s three people involved in bullying, the bully, the victim and the bystander.’ We have also carried out a series of assemblies on ‘How would you feel if this was you?’
There are issues to address re transition work to ensure other students in the school are supportive towards new Y7 students and perhaps reflect more on how they felt when they first joined the school. It may also be necessary to have staff on duty in key areas in the community before and after school, this incident happened outside a parade of local shops where students gather prior to walking to school.
The students who considered this incident felt that if they were the victim/target that the incident occurred as the primary school problem had not been resolved.
They said that they would have felt worried and scared about moving up to Secondary school. They also said that they would have told the form teacher and that the pupil must have trusted them enough to tell them.
They agreed with the action taken by the Vice Principal and that the support given was suitable and that they would have felt supported.
They said that a decent transition programme or visits to the Secondary School before Y7 may have helped the target feel more confident in the move and introducing him some key members of staff, Learning mentor, councilor may have given him to report it sooner.
They also said that they may not have told their parents because they may have not wanted the situation to become worse and reoccur as because of the way it was dealt with before.
They also felt that it must have been scary when he was kicked and name called ,particularly when they were other students watching and that they didn’t stick up for them.
The students felt that a peer mentor for the Y7 would also have helped him in his confidence at secondary school-someone who may have experienced a similar thing.
The students felt that the bully could have had been bullied at home – and there could be something that school may not be aware of.
He obviously felt that he needed to be in charge or in control of a situation so he chose an easy target. They also said that he may have been bullied at school and that his ‘bully’ may have got away with it so he thought it was acceptable behavior. He may have felt insecure about himself.
He chose the victim because he had history with him and that he knew what would upset him or make him ‘tick’. This would give him the overall power that most bullies crave. Maybe in the previous situation the target didn’t report it as bullying so he thought he could get away with it.
At first as he didn’t show any remorse that showed that he felt he was not doing anything wrong so he may not have realized the true definition of bullying and that the school may need to address that by assemblies and PHSE lessons.
Although the sanction was issued by the Vice Principal, it obviously wasn’t severe enough as he went on to repeat offend. If it had have been more severe than the second incident may well not have happened.
The students said that there may have been several contributing factors as to why the bullying may not have been reported by the bystanders.
They felt that as a Y11 for instance they would easily of intervened knowing the clear right and wrongs of the situation. They would be more confident to intervene and that the younger student (the bully) may have responded appropriately when challenged by someone and that the other bystanders may then have realized that they could intervene.
However the younger members said that many students don’t intervene for fear of reprisals from the ‘bully’ or his friendship group and that he may turn on them. They would feel intimidated by an aggressive student and would feel in danger of being hurt.
They also could have been friends with the bully and that would have tested their loyalty. They may have been called a ‘snitch, grasses and therefore made their lives unbearable. Also perhaps they were waiting for someone else to stop it, maybe an adult in the shops because they would be more suitable to stop and say something or report it to the school.
One of the students said that they had intervened in a similar situation recently and the bully stopped the name-calling there and then and that they then reported it to the dinner lady at school and they felt that they had helped the young person in question. They said that training or guidance from the school and it is really important to know who to report bullying to – any member of staff so they don’t have to worry about finding a special person.
The students said a ‘staff presence or community police around that area would help deter further incidents.
The Y7 target obviously knew that he could trust his Form Tutor with this information which shows he was aware of the reporting system.
When the FT was aware he reassured the Y7 that he had done the right thing and referred the matter to the Vice Principal who reassured him that they wouldn’t use his name when speaking to the Y8.
The Y7 felt valued and supported throughout the process. Using the fake ‘witnesses’ was a good strategy when dealing with incidents.
The way that the school dealt with both boys was sensitive and they had clear anti-bullying systems in place, By contacting the parents they ensured that the communication was in place between the school and home and the parents of the Y7 are now happy that the school will deal with incidents seriously and appropriately.
The sanctions were appropriate for the incident and the support in place for the Y8 boy was suitable, the CAF and positive support and Counseling that have been offered will help address the Y8’s behavior and how it affects others.
The focus on the Y7 was supportive, and particular the election on the Youth council will be effective in raising the young man’s self-esteem. The weekly checkups with the schools Community Liaison Officer are an excellent way to ensure that he is secure and feels safe at school.
The poster competition and assemblies were positive actions to raise awareness of the role of the bystander. The whole school action of addressing the Transition phase will be proactive in ensuring that the Y6-Y7 will run smoother and would highlight any concerns in the future before they arise. Theatre in Education may be a tool to support this.
The incident was dealt with in a very positive way which helped the victim without making them the centre of attention and without letting the bully know the victim had been involved. This reinforces the message to the bully that other people find this type of behavior unacceptable.
It is a positive reflection on the school and the way that they deal with bullying in the fact that the student felt safe and willing to report the incident and they obviously felt that it would be dealt with appropriately. Involving all parents was essential as they can only support the victim to deal with the situation and the bully to modify their behavior if they are aware.
As the bully did not really show any remorse over what he had done then some work could be done between the bully and victim, maybe with support the victim could explain how he felt and hearing the victim articulate this may help the bully to understand the consequences of their actions on others.
The whole school approach to try and encourage others to stop it happening should be really effective.
One of the parents said that she would notice the school refusal or not wishing to ‘play out at night’ as clear indications that something was wrong. They would have spoken to their child and tried to encourage them to tell them what was going on.
Another parent said that they would ask their child to speak to their form teacher and would trust the school to ‘sort it out as they had the expertise to do this.’ However they would ring the school later in the day to check that their child had reported it.
Another said that they would take their child into school and make an appointment to speak to the form teacher or Head of Year.
One parent said that the way the Vice Principal dealt with the situation was good and particularly liked the technique of saying that someone had witnessed the incident to take way the pressure from the victim.
They felt the support put in place for the bullied child was ‘above and beyond’ but was it realistic to expect that for each bullied child? Another parent said the first sanction for the bully needed to be more ‘severe’ so that the 2nd incident wouldn’t have happened.
Another parent said that although the child told the form tutor, were the reporting systems clear in school? And was the reason the parents didn’t contact the school was because they weren’t sure of who to speak to?
All the parents felt that the relationship between school and home is vital and they would want to know either way about a bullying incident, that is if their child was bullying or being bullied-so that they can work within the school. They liked the idea of the staff presence in the community but that may not be practical, so could the Community Support Officers (PCSO’s) be asked to ‘patrol’ at the key times?
The school responded quickly and effectively to the problem.
Effective schools consistently remind pupils bad behaviour is a choice - this empowers pupils to take responsibility for their behaviour. A regular whole school approach to bullying (raising everyone’s awareness including parents) does ensure that everyone knows how to deal with this subject.
Schools should have separate services offering behaviour management and counselling, while often impacting on behaviour, should not be confused with a behaviour management tool.
If I heard about an incident such as this I would deal with it:
• Through counselling victim: explore Options to a) empower client to disclose to another staff member with or without me b) talk to school in general about concerns over bullying without specifying details that would compromise confidentiality.
• Through counselling perpetrator if considered safe to do so: I would work with client to sigpost towards behaviour management services if available, and encourage client to take responsibility for his behaviour. Again would have generalised talk with school over any concerns.
Counselling to be available to the victim, but specifically to help with the trauma of the incident and not to suggest they are in any way responsible.
In hindsight counselling could have been offered to both pupils and posssibly the perpetrator could have been offered behaviour management work instead of counselling.
Involvement of a counsellor could improve communication and co-operation, eg:
• Counsellors have deep insight into processes and dynamics
• Counsellors will often empower victims to speak for themselves or will be able to speak for pupils who don’t get heard
• Counsellors are not closely involved in daily school dynamics so can offer a fresh perspective and pick up common issues where schools accidentally enable bullying, e.g. by victim-blaming, minimising, making excuses or allowances for the perpetrator’s behaviour
• Counsellors could offer individual or group support to victims
With the right support and not being made to feel responsible for the attack, impact can be minimised – the wrong approach could lead to the victim feeling responsible for others behaviour and set him up for repeated bullying.
The school took positive action to deal with the situation, this seems to indicate that policy and procedures are in place and known and followed by staff and pupils, developing a safe and caring environment. Particularly in ensuring the pupil knew he had done the right thing in telling and guaranteeing his anonymity.
The follow up was well organised and consistent; however, perhaps a more robust approach may have deterred the perpetrator from the second bullying incident. Greater peer support, perhaps in the form of a buddy system to address any problems during journeys to and from school, may well reduce issues in the future.
We would suggest liaison with Primary feeder schools to discuss what their school’s PSHEE programme covers, whether they use the SEAL materials and how they work with and inform Parents about how to report Bullying behaviour. This should help to give a smoother transition for pupils and improve communication.
If we were involved with this school we would offer support in the form of:
• Future Policy guidance, with attention to moving the school forward in terms of bystander reporting and transition from primary to secondary.
• Peer mentoring training
• Review of PSHEE curriculum to ensure appropriate coverage across key stages, in such areas as dealing with conflict etc.
• Consider review of transition programme maybe involve the pupil who had been bullied to advise what he feels would have helped him.
• Offer to facilitate consultation work with school council and wider pupil community to ensure pupils views are being listened to and integrated into policy decisions.
The school clearly has a good track record for Pastoral Care. Although the boy was only Y7, he had the confidence to confide in his Tutor. The great thing is that his cry for help was heard and much good has been done in stopping the bullying and raising his self-esteem.
It is interesting that the character we call the bully did not initially see the significance of his actions; which raises the question of whether he is just a nasty boy rather than a bully. He was certainly using bullying behaviour and the repeated assaults would indicate that it wasn’t just an isolated act of violence. Whatever we decide to call him it is clear that he is just as much in need of adult support as the boy he kicked and abused.
The school clearly has an excellent policy on involving parents as early as possible and fully appreciates the need to look at its practice over transition.
Significant changes like moving up to Secondary School make some children vulnerable. It is perhaps possible that the student in the Case Study became the target of this anti-social behaviour because he hadn’t properly settled in. Indeed he may have confused the initial contact as some kind of acceptance rather than a threat to his personal well-being. We need to be sure.
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I Am Not Scared Project
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