Anne Everest - Head's Message 06-11
This week has been recognised nationally as anti-bullying week. It is a fact almost universally acknowledged that, where there are people, there is always the potential for the very best conduct and the very worst. Humanity at its best is supportive, empathetic, adventurous, kind, generous and respectful: at its worst it is envious, grudging, mean-spirited and cruel. Part of our role as educators is to help children make the right choices about how to treat one another – and to make sure that they recognise when their behaviour is making another child miserable. They need therefore to understand what bullying is and how they should respond to it.
It was in this context that the Upper 6 delivered their assembly yesterday. It told the story of a young girl whose life was made miserable by on-line bullying. What started as a throw-away message on a social network was re-tweeted and seized upon by others who had no real understanding of the impact of their words – and no conscience about them. The assembly examined the ways to avoid such a situation.
We expect good behaviour from adults, and in the work place employees would be disciplined for bullying behaviour. There are sanctions for bad behaviour in school too, but there are also planned interventions and speedy responses which can be made to deal with unacceptable behaviour before it reaches the stage where it endangers others. Everyone can say something unkind or unfeeling unintentionally, and often those causing unhappiness have no real understanding of the impact of their behaviour.
All schools should reflect on how they deal with bullying behaviour. Our young people are under more pressures than those of previous generations: they have grown up with the internet; they spend frightening amounts of time on-line every day; they are, as a consequence, vulnerable, as a result of that exposure.
A school that says they have no instances of bullying is probably an empty one! We have a duty to reflect with our students on our own approaches to possible bullying. Last session we put together an anti-bullying charter, with which all members of the community are expected to comply. This session we are focusing on eliminating electronic bullying in all its forms, and we are developing this work with the formation of a student led eCommittee.
We aspire always to be a caring and supportive community for all our students, staff and parents. If this anti-bullying week has helped to raise awareness of the issues and the consequences of poor behaviour, it has been powerful indeed.
Anne C Everest
Head, St George's School for Girls