‘Who is the most powerful person in your school?’
This is a question that the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) has been asking pupils in schools across Northern Ireland over the past few months. Who do you think has power in your school? What do those people do with the power they have?
NIABF defines bullying as:
The REPEATED use of POWER by one or more persons, INTENTIONALLY to harm, hurt or adversely affect the rights and needs of another or others
Bullying incidents involve an imbalance of power, where one or more persons have more power, are given more power, take more power or feel more powerful than their peers. This is not necessarily a physical power, as is often shown in clichéd bullying images. If we think of the cartoon character who is bullying others, it is usually the bigger child, picking on the smaller one. We have seen this image time and again, but it is important that when we think of power we think not only of the physicality, but also the social power of the young people we teach.
Power in itself is not necessarily a negative trait. All around us in our society we can see examples of power and often that power is being used to do good. Therefore, it is not the power that causes problems, but rather what we do with that power that is important.
Understanding of power and how it can be used to effect positive change in our schools is a central element of a new project being delivered by NIABF in schools. The training builds the capacity of senior pupils in the school to recognise and understand the social power they have, how their actions and behaviour influence their younger peers and the role they play in both preventing bullying and responding if and when it happens.
Lee Kane, Regional Anti-Bullying Coordinator at NIABF, explains how the training is delivered:
“The programme is aimed at pupils in their final year, be that Year 7, 12 or 14 depending on the school. Some schools have requested the training for prefects or pupil leadership teams, while others have involved the whole year group. The training lasts two and a half hours and can be delivered to up to fifty pupils at a time.
“On completion of the training, pupils will:
- be more skilled in recognising bullying behaviour
- feel more confident in challenging bullying behaviour
- understand how their behaviour influences their younger peers
- be equipped with strategies for responding to low-level bullying behaviour and reporting concerns to school staff”
Antrim Grammar School is just one of the many schools that have already taken of advantage of this initiative. Jenny Lendrum, Vice-Principal, praised the training, saying:
”The Senior Pupil Training that we received from the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum was outstanding. We wanted high quality, meaningful and relevant training so that our Prefect body would be equipped to identify, help and support any pupils being bullied. The training delivered on all fronts.
“Pupils were engaged throughout the innovative session and by the end they were inspired to lead effectively and efficiently in relation to this aspect of their role. We now have a team of Prefects who are proactive which continues to enhance the already high level of pastoral care and community spirit within the school ”
If you would like more information on the programme, or to hear more about how NIABF can support you, please contact NIABF’s Regional Coordinator, Lee Kane, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 9089 1730.