Another day. Another person telling us what ‘schools should do’. Another time when I shout at the TV ‘What do you think we’ve been doing for years??’. I get really fed up with people who know nothing about education telling schools what they should be doing. Every school I know has a bullying policy, an internet safety policy, a child protection policy. In fact, when I finally gave up teaching, our school had a policy for just about anything you could think of. These were not just pieces of paper paying lip-service to situations. They were working documents with standard procedures, obeyed by all staff. The only difference between teaching in 2008 and teaching in 1978 in my experience was that everything was committed to paper. Much of what is written on those bits of paper is common sense. If you witness bullying or a child tells you they have been bullied, you act on it. It’s a no-brainer. The difficulty lies in the child telling someone in the first place. Every child being bullied worries that by telling they will make things even worse.
Cyber-bullying is much harder. Schools often have divided opinions about nasty messages being received at home and how far their jurisdiction should extend. When does online bullying become ‘nothing to do with school’?
I remember a few years ago, a student told me that her friend was having an online relationship with a man and they planned to meet up. I was very concerned that this girl knew nothing about this person’s real identity. So, I rang her parents to discuss this and ask if they were aware. I got a torrent of abuse for ‘interfering’ in their daughter’s personal life. I still maintain that if it were my daughter, I’d have been very grateful for the concern of her teacher but we’re not all the same.
The key to getting things as good as they can be is an open and honest relationship between home and school. Each should view the other with respect and have the common goal of caring for and developing each child positively. It helps that parents can view the school’s policies but if they feel they are not being applied, they should feel comfortable about raising their worries directly with the school management. By the same token, whilst teachers don’t believe everything a child tells them happens at home, it should be important that the teacher feels they can ring to discuss any concerns which have arisen.
I get exasperated that schools seems to be responsible for all society’s ills. In many cases, school is the one constant in a child’s life. Teachers take that responsibility very seriously. So please, government, news companies, general public, before you tell us what we ‘should’ be doing, research what we actually ARE doing and have been doing for decades.