Advice from Heads on tackling bullying at school

Two heads have offered their guidance for parents on bullying. Gabrielle Solti of the Grammar School at Leeds and Rob Simmons of St Benedict's Junior School in Ealing were speaking to Attain's Fresh Thinking podcast.

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8th June 2021 — Bullying is something which most children will encounter at some point in their lives.

Schools have a number of strategies for dealing with it, which start with trying to create a culture of respect and happiness.

"It's the most important thing we do. Happy children are successful learners. If you are not happy, you are not going to be able to learn," says Gabrielle Solti, Vice Principal and Head of the Primary School at the Grammar School at Leeds.

At the heart of good schools are core values, including talking about respect for others and ensuring these messages are embedded from an early age.

Some schools reinforce this message through notions such as 'bucket filling' – contributing positively to the wellbeing of others – as opposed to 'bucket dipping', which diminishes an individual's self-esteem and positivity.

Sadly, situations and issues will develop among children, particularly at pinch points during the day, such as in the school playground or at lunchtime.

"It's really hard as a parent when you have your child come home and they are upset... you, as a parent, are hearing one side of what happened – you don't know the exact circumstances and children will always tell you their perspective," says Gabrielle.

She explains it is very important not to judge and instead to follow up with the school as soon as possible and ask for an explanation of what happened.

Gabrielle Solti of the Grammar School at Leeds and Rob Simmons of St Benedict's Junior School in Ealing discuss bullying.

"It is that ability to be objective," agrees Rob Simmons, Headmaster of St Benedict's Junior School, Ealing. "In a sense to strip the emotion from the situation, because the natural instinct is to want to protect your children..."

He continues: "We all need to be aware, as parents, we see one side of our children when they are at home and they are with their family. We don't see them when they are at school so you have to have a completely open mind as to what is happening – and you have the old adage that there are always three sides to every story!"

"I think it's really interesting that during the period we have just had, particularly with the lockdown, helping the children to understand about body language, tone of voice, facial expression – is very, very important because that's a key part of what the children are learning about as they are growing up through life – so you can show a greater degree of empathy for everybody that you come into contact with..."

Listen to the full interview

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