Stand united against bullying during national awareness week

Anti-Bullying Week 2020 takes place from Monday, November 16 until Friday, November 20.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 1:52 pm
Updated Monday, 16th November 2020, 2:05 pm

Imagine a school with no bullying.

It sounds almost too good to be true but Sussex’s SML College boasts zero bullying and truancy.

Dr Ian Cunningham invented Self Managed Learning and founded the college. It has no classrooms, no imposed curriculum, no lessons and no ‘teachers.’

He has 40 year’s research, insurmountable evidence, theory and practice to prove the causes and consequences of bullying in schools and how his model prevents this.

He said: “In 20 years of SML College, we have had zero instances of bullying.

“Yet bullying is endemic in the school system. A survey published in September showed that 46 per cent of school children had experienced bullying. One in ten children said they had felt suicidal due to bullying; one in seven had changed school or turned to home schooling due to bullying. We have seen a 50 per cent increase in applications from parents since lockdown, partly for this reason.”

Self Managed Learning College in Brighton allows students to choose their own studies, which they can learn in any manner they like - there are more than 57 ways - and only requires them to be present in the mornings, giving them time to enjoy their own activities.

The child pictured is a model. From NSPCC/Childline Picture: Tom Hull

Dr Cunningham insists that for a successful learning community with zero bullying, where healthy relationships exist between students and adults, three conditions must be met: every young person must know every adult, every adult must know every young person and every young person must know every other young person

This, along with the College’s regular ‘community meetings,’ where problems or issues are openly discussed, has enabled them operate a zero-bullying college and protect the mental health of their students.

Dr Cunningham’s SML methods are becoming so popular across the globe that he has been invited to implement the methods at some of the world’s biggest organisations, including British Airways, the BBC, Barclays Bank, EMI, Nike, Virgin, WH Smiths, Ericsson, Nestle, the NHS and Tottenham Hotspur FC, among others.

“People always say that schooling is important in order to get a job in later life,” he said. “So when major companies are asking us to bring SML to their workplaces, it would seem there’s no better learning approach to help youngsters break into - and adapt to - the working world.”

Dr Cunningham

But what should you do if your child is a bully?

Michelle Barry is a Childline counsellor in Sussex.

She said “Our children are precious to us. We all want them to grow up in a safe and loving environment and become happy, confident adults.

“To get there they need to be surrounded by positive influences, good advice and the knowledge that if they ever need help and support there will be someone to talk to.

Andy Day and the Odd Socks band

“As a parent, it’s you who they’ll look to for help. And, as they’re your child, it’s up to you to talk to them when you think they might need a nudge in the right direction.”

Childline gives the following advice to young people who want to stop bullying this Anti-Bullying Week:

- Recognise what you’re doing is bullying. You might want to dismiss what’s happened as just a joke, or think that it’s okay because you’re not the only one. But sending nasty messages, sharing a post or liking something that’s been made to make someone feel bad, is bullying. It can be hard to accept this and we’ve got advice to help on our website if you’re feeling guilty.

- Stop whatever you were doing to bully someone, don’t post or share things and don’t message the person. Go back and delete old posts or messages.

- Don’t stay on group chats or pages. Even if you don’t participate, if you stay on a group chat then you’re encouraging other people.

- Apologise to the person you bullied or sent messages to. Offer them support if you can, but respect their wishes if they don’t want to talk to you.

- Encourage others to stop bullying too. Talk to others who’ve been bullying and encourage them to stop. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a big change.

- Think about how you want to behave online in the future, and what you could do if you want to do this again. Try asking an adult for help if you’re struggling with difficult feelings.

Michelle added: “It’s never easy to start a serious conversation with a child. Do it too forcefully and they may well clam up straight away. But if you take a more subtle approach you can find the chat gets derailed and you’re soon talking about something entirely different.

“It’s best to think about having a few “bite-sized” conversations over a period of time. It gives your child the time to process what you’ve discussed and avoids the whole thing sounding like a heavy lecture.

“When you want to have a serious conversation with a child it can be easy to forget that it should be a two-way thing. For them to feel truly involved it’s very important to show that you are listening to them and really value what they’re telling you.”

For more help and advice visit either www.nspcc.org.uk or www.childline.org.uk

The theme of this year's anti-bullying week is United Against Bullying.

The week will start with Odd Socks Day on Monday, November 16. It is an opportunity to encourage people to express themselves and celebrate their individuality.

Stars of CBBC’s ‘Andy and the Band’ series, Andy and the Odd Socks have joined forces with the Anti-Bullying Alliance for the fourth year by recording a song.

“This is my favourite song and video we have made for Odd Socks Day as part of Anti-Bullying Week so far,” said Andy Day.

“It’s a cover of Sham 69’s ‘The Kids Are United’ but with an Odd Socks twist! To have the amazing Princess K and her brothers feature and the brilliant Libera International Boys Choir really makes it special.

“Hundreds of school kids and teachers sent us the clips of them dancing to the track, all filmed in their bubbles.

“This was truly collaborative and creative and made in challenging times and we are so unbelievably proud of it. It feels very emotional.”

The track is inspired by conversations with school children conducted by the band over Zoom ahead of the Summer break; conversations which also highlighted that, following months of home schooling, there are those feeling anxious or afraid of the return due to the issues Anti-Bullying Week is here to address.