Local schools take part in anti-bullying week

SCHOOLS and youth groups from across Cookstown, Magherafelt and across Northern Ireland will explore bullying based on difference and prejudice during this year’s Anti-Bullying Week.

Running under the banner ‘Everybody is Somebody’ this theme may relate to homophobic, disablist, sectarian or racist bullying. Ultimately, if a person is perceived as being different to their peers, this can on occasion lead to an individual experiencing bullying.

Anti-Bullying Week is co-ordinated by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) and supported by Translink. NIABF is an interagency group hosted by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) NI and funded by the Department of Education.

Lee Kane, NIABF’s Regional Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator, explains the opportunity that Anti-Bullying Week provides for teachers, youth workers and parents to talk to young people about respecting difference and to challenge bullying:

“The interest from schools, youth groups and parents in this year’s Anti-Bullying Week shows how important the issue of bullying is in our society and reaffirms our commitment to educate young people about diversity. By challenging negative stereotypes and reinforcing anti-bullying messages we can all emphasise that such behaviour is unacceptable. Children and young people’s participation is critical to implementing effective anti-bullying strategies.”

“Poster displays, themed assemblies presentations, lesson activities and whole school exercises are some of the activities taking place to engage pupils in understanding their role and responsibility in tackling bullying.”

Discussing this year’s theme Lee adds: “Research shows that young people think the children who are seen as being different are more likely to experience bullying in our schools and in our communities.

“It might be motivated by their gender; their real or perceived sexual orientation; if they have a disability; the colour of their skin; where they come from; their religion; what they look like; if they’re particularly good at sport, or not etc. No matter how it happens, or why it happens, all bullying is wrong, and we have a duty to challenge it.”

The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum recently ran an ‘Everybody is Somebody’ creative competition to further engage pupils and asked them to submit art or creative writing entries using this theme. The competition attracted an overwhelming response, with over 1200 young people from across Northern Ireland taking part. The prize winners will attend a special prize giving ceremony on Tuesday 20 November at Titanic Belfast.

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week is once again supported by Translink.

Anti-bullying messages will be disseminated to the public through poster displays at train and bus stations across Northern Ireland.

Translink’s Ursula Kelleher, explains: “There has been an overwhelming response from schools and youth groups to this year’s Anti-Bullying Week ensuring that thousands of young people are informed about the serious issue of bullying and how to tackle it effectively.

“By embracing diversity and respecting people’s differences, we are helping to build a happier, more rewarding school experience and providing young people with important life skills,” said Ursula.

St Ita’s Primary School in Belfast is just one of the many schools taking part in Anti-Bullying Week 2012.

Principal, Joanne Browne, explains why it’s an important week in the school calendar: “We have been involved in Anti-Bullying Week since our school opened in September 2005.

“The campaign has a very meaningful focus each year which we can all relate to and which helps us focus on our anti-bullying policy.

“It provides a time in the year when all stakeholders examine their role in stamping out bullying. The resources available are wonderful and very accessible to all age groups. Lots of discussion at home and at school, art work, role play and school based competitions ensure that children are aware of our anti- bullying procedures and their right to a safe and happy learning environment.”

For further information on Anti-Bullying Week 2012 log on to www.endbullying.org.uk or contact Lee Kane, Regional Anti-Bullying Co-ordinator at info@niabf.org.uk.