Young Voices Newsletter
A newsletter about pupil participation from the annual conference of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network and the Anti-Bullying Network held in Glasgow, 1 June 2001. ABN
Punishment doesn't work
Margaret Johnstone reports on the keynote address by
George Robinson of the Lucky Duck Publishing Company

George Robinson
George Robinson

Why no blame?
What led to George Robinson and his colleague Barbara Maines developing the 'No-Blame' approach to dealing with bullying?

George explained the development of his thinking through four themes:

circle time
and the ineffectiveness of punishment
In the 1970s, George worked with disturbed adolescents. The thorough preparation of an appropriate curriculum was seen as the answer to pupil disaffection. But no amount of preparation made an impact on these pupils. Instead, they attempted to make an impact on him - with bricks! While he can turn this experience into a funny story, at the time it was dreadful. Eventually he came to the conclusion that enhancing pupils' self-esteem would be a more effective answer to disruption than a more mechanical system of behaviour modification.

We all interpret the world in terms of how we feel about ourselves. A pupil who is feeling bad about him or herself may reject well-meant help and appear to act illogically. Anyone wanting to challenge a pupil's behaviour has first to make time to try to understand that pupil, even if this challenges what we do in schools.

The institutional language used in schools emphasises the use of 'you' rather than 'I' and of 'don't' rather than 'do'. In school corridors, we frequently hear things like, 'your last chance', 'what do you think you are doing?' and 'why did you do that?'. George believes that these kinds of statements just get in the way of dealing with problems. 'I' statements, on the other hand, can move the emphasis away from the perceived failure of the pupil on to the response or action of the teacher.
Circle Time
George's definition of circle time differs from more formal prescriptions. Any way of getting pupils to talk to each other and to share feelings is a positive step. Learning about relationships and how to function in a group can help to prevent bullying as people discover their similarities, which in itself can be a very enjoyable learning experience.
Punishment is not effective: it does not change pupil behaviour. There has to be a reactive approach to bullying incidents, but it must not be a system of allocating blame and punishment. Teachers should challenge assumptions underlying such a system. Labelling pupils as 'victims' or 'bullies', trying to 'get to the bottom of it' (a limitless task), training victims to be assertive, and punishment itself are not successful ways of bringing about significant change.
The No Blame Approach
When bullying has been observed or reported then the No Blame Approach offers a simple seven-step procedure which can be used by a teacher or other facilitator.
  • Step one - talk with the victim.
  • Step two - convene a meeting with the people involved. The facilitator arranges to meet with the group of pupils who have been involved and suggested by the victim. This is an opportunity to balance the group so that helpful and reliable young people are included alongside those whose behaviour has been causing distress.
  • Step three - explain the problem.
  • Step four - share responsibility. Explain that no-one is in trouble or going to be punished and that there is a joint responsibility to help the victim to be happy and safe.
  • Step five - ask the group members for their ideas.
  • Step six - leave it up to them.
  • Step seven - meet them again. This allows the teacher to monitor the bullying and keeps the young people involved in the process.





Further Information!
Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd
3 Thorndale Mews
Bristol BS8 2HX
Tel: 0117 973 2881
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