I knew all the effort had been worth while when I started hearing what children in years 5 and 6 said during our first anti-bullying workshops.
“I’ve learnt that everyone is the same, if I don’t want to be their friend then it should be because of their personality, and not how they look or sound,” said a year sixer. Another added: “”I learnt if someone’s in trouble with a bully you should help them.”
I’d been thinking about how to get primary school pupils to talk about the reasons behind bullying and ways to cope with it for a long time. Like many people, I had brushes with bullying at school, and I wanted to help others overcome it, both bullies and bullied.
Having been mentored by Mentoring Plus, returning as a mentor myself and getting involved in other youth projects across the county, I led a team who designed an in-school workshop project and took our idea to the Raby Family Trust earlier this year. They generously gave us £4,600 to support project development and delivery for a year, and alongside this the Bath Liberal Democrats gave us £750. So we were up and running, and for this academic year we can hold the sessions with no cost to the schools.
St Andrews CE Primary School offered to help us pilot the workshops, each made up of 15 pupils with 4 sessions per cycle. We cover what bullying is, respecting equalities and what you should do if you are being bullied, and help pupils explore these subjects with the help of spoken word poets too.
It was useful to test the way we ran the sessions and see how children responded. We’ve got refinements to make, but the pupils’ feedback showed that if this subject is spoken about with children in the right way, then they will all understand it and get involved. I hope it will empower them to make a difference.
The feedback we collected was great, not just the high proportions who enjoyed the workshops and found them useful, but the extra comments they included. One girl wrote: “I’ve learnt it’s not just horrible things like pushing that are bullying. I have also learnt how to handle bullying”.
So we’re inspired to deliver 32 more sessions in primary schools in the Bath and North East Somerset area between January and July, and already we’re booked for 16 of them. Who knew when I was encountering bullies in the playground myself that soon I’d be helping educate the young minds of tomorrow? That makes everything worth while.