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What could be done to support pupils who are being bullied?

One way of supporting children who are being bullied is peer support. This is when pupils are trained to help younger or vulnerable children cope with problems such as bullying. When over 2,000 pupils in Britain were asked about peer support schemes in their schools, many of the bullying victims said that it had made a difference and had helped them to survive. However, it was found that the schemes did not seem to reduce bullying in the schools. Some of the most common types of peer support include: conflict resolution (where peer supporters help younger or vulnerable pupils to work through school problems such as bullying and racist name-calling); mentoring (where a pupil who is usually older, provides another with a positive role model, encouragement and support); befriending (where peers offer their friendship) and counselling (with peer supporters receiving training from a qualified adult).
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Article details

P Naylor and H Cowie (1999) 'The Effectiveness of Peer Support Systems in Challenging School Bullying: the perspectives and experiences of teachers and pupils' in 'Journal of Adolescence', Volume 22, pages 467-479.
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Author details

Helen CowieHelen Cowie is research professor in the European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey. She is also director of the UK Observatory for the Promotion of Non-Violence and Co-ordinator of Violence in Schools Training Action (VISTA). She has published many books and papers on peer relationships and support, bullying in schools and in the workplace and the mental health of children and young people.

For information about her research interests and her publications please go here. She may be contacted by email.

Paul NaylorPaul Naylor is Senior Research Fellow/Programme Convenor Certificate in Peer Support at Roehampton University of Surrey. His publications and research interests cover a range of topics including: peer support, bullying, racism and social psychology.

For information about his publications and research go here.

Some studies have looked at the effect assertiveness training has had on children who are bullied and have found that it does help them. One of the most important benefits of the training is that it provides the children with new and more positive ways of handling and responding to a bullying situation. It also gives them the opportunity to try out their responses (for example through role play) in a safe and supportive environment, to become more comfortable with them. Another very important benefit of the training is that it increases the self-esteem and confidence of the participants.
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Article details

S Sharp and H Cowie (1994) 'Empowering Children to Take Positive Action Against Bullying', chapter in the book 'School Bullying: insights and perspectives', edited by P Smith and S Sharp: Routledge, London.
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Author details

Helen CowieHelen Cowie is research professor in the European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey. She is also director of the UK Observatory for the Promotion of Non-Violence and Co-ordinator of Violence in Schools Training Action (VISTA). She has published many books and papers on peer relationships and support, bullying in schools and in the workplace and the mental health of children and young people.

For information about her research interests and her publications please go here. She may be contacted by email.

A valuable source of support can be the family. A child who is being bullied may well be scared to tell anyone about it. If the family has already talked about bullying generally, it should be easier for the child to discuss it if it happens to him/her. The family can be there to listen and to offer support and understanding, to approach the school (with the child's knowledge) and to find ways of building up the child's self-esteem and confidence. Good communication between parents and schools is very important, not just when responding to particular reports of bullying, but also when drawing up an anti-bullying policy for the whole school.
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Article details

A Mellor (1997) 'Bullying at School: advice for families', Edinburgh: Scottish Council for Research in Education.
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Author details

Andrew MellorAt the time of the study, Andrew Mellor was a practising teacher who had received funding from the Scottish Education Department to carry out this project. He has been actively involved in anti-bullying work in Scotland for almost 15 years, speaking at conferences, writing for academic and non-academic audiences and running in-service courses for teachers. He is now manager of the Anti-Bullying Network, which is funded by the Scottish Executive and based at The University of Edinburgh.

Teachers can play an important part in supporting children who are being bullied. According to a Scottish anti-bullying pack ('Bullyproofing Our School') it is important to create an atmosphere in the class which is supportive and positive and sends a clear message that bullying is not acceptable. When the child has reported bullying, responses by teachers could include: reassuring the child and exploring ways of dealing with the problem; looking at defence strategies; finding ways of boosting the child's confidence (for example encouraging a new hobby); and creating situations in the classroom where the child can mix with other children more positively. It is stressed that it is important to help build up the child's confidence in his/her ability to work things out.
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Article details

A McLean (1994) 'Background Reading for Schools', Book 8 in the pack 'Bullyproofing Our School. Promoting Positive Relationships', Strathclyde Regional Council, Department of Education. This article can be viewed here.
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Author details

Alan McLeanAt the time of this study, Alan McLean was Principal Psychologist based at the Education Department Psychological Service in the former Strathclyde Regional Council. His particular interests in the area of bullying include: links between bullying and motivation; the thinking processes and self-esteem of the bully.

He can be contacted at by email.
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