Name of Author(s)
The cool school anti-bullying team: Pat Courtney, Ann Flynn, Bernie Henry, dr. D. James, dr. M. Lawlor.
Description of Contents
The Cool School programme is an Anti-Bullying initiative for Post-Primary schools developed within the North Eastern Health Board’s Child Psychiatric Service. It is an Anti-Bullying programme and support service targeted at second level schools. It is supported by assistance from the HSE Dublin North East Health promotion Unit, and the In-Career development service of the department of education and science. A multi-disciplinary team is engaged in this work, comprising a Consultant Psychiatrist, a Principal Social Worker, a Research Psychologist, and two Teachers. The impetus for partnership between Health and Education in this initiative arises from the significant effects bullying has on the wellbeing of young people, and on their progress in school. Significantly, these effects can also last into adulthood, causing depression and poor social development. They include: physical injury, headaches, stomach aches, stress symptoms such as sleep problems, eating disorders, anxiety or panic attacks, and loss of confidence and self-esteem. In very extreme circumstances some young people even consider suicide. In school terms the effects are likely to include: drop-out, truancy, school refusal, low academic achievement or complete failure, exclusion and isolation. The Programme aims to provide a support service for schools to facilitate implementation of the Department of Education’s Guidelines on Countering Bullying in Primary and Post-Primary Schools. Consequently, elements of the Cool School Programme include, whole school policy development, teacher training, development of materials, and group therapy for victims of bullying. A research component investigating bullying behaviour is also included. This booklet offers advice for teachers on how to proceed if a young person takes the very brave step of asking for help. Given the atmosphere of fear and secrecy which surrounds bullying, and the fact that adult intervention is almost always necessary to stop it, it is crucial that the confidence placed in a teacher by a pupil is reciprocated by an unequivocal response. The guidelines therefore, offer a structured way of providing support which is teacher friendly, while at the same time covering the main issues involved. The measures discussed rely on a whole school approach which tackles the problem comprehensively.
These guidelines are very useful for teachers because they show clearly the consequences of being bullied giving a list of the most common reactions to be bullied in school: physical, emotional, psychological and school effects. The strategies suggested in this programme can be used as preventive measures as well as tools for investigating and resolving bullying. One useful tool for teachers is the Confidential Questionnaires in order to discover who needs help in dealing with bullying in school. Moreover the team suggest teachers to create a sociogram of the class, by asking some tactful questions, for understanding relationships in a class or group and identifying positive and negative influences in the group. The authors illustrate an interesting sample bullying sociogram form that teachers could use as a useful tool. In addition to that, they suggest a sample class observation form for discovering the dynamic at work in a group and monitoring events in order to record problematic behaviours accurately and to identify pupils who need support including those engaged in questionable behaviour. Moreover this class observation enable teachers to establish standards of what is acceptable and unacceptable and to implement these.
In this programme, there is also an interesting section which deals about an interview with someone accused of bullying others. This is a delicate task for teachers and the authors give them valuable advice to approach a “bully” and to co-operate with him to find a solution. Another important step is the possible reconciliation between the parties and the team explain when the mediation is appropriate or not appropriate.
The points of strength of this programme are: to suggest methods of investigation which aim for restorative rather than retributive justice; to analyse the bullying problem from different points of view (one to one bullying, group bullying and whole class involvement); to suggest teachers effective monitoring tools and teaching materials.
These guidelines discuss preventative and re-active approaches to bullying between students in school in order to research the nature and extent of bullying in individual schools, to enable teachers to help students who have been engaged in bullying to change their behaviour and to provide group therapy for students who have been repeatedly victimised by bullying.
This booklet is well structured in 12 chapters and 31 pages in all. The last two sections contain sample forms and useful references and resources for teachers. The language is clear and suggestions are provided in a schematic way. The most important sentences are underlined.
This Cool School Programme is flexible and has the advantage of being preventative as well as reactive. It aims to reduce the defensive stance of a bully by using a pastoral approach and gives effective examples for approaching him.