Schools to benefit from further specialist training to help pupils combat bullying

Thousands of schools in England are set to benefit from further support and training to help pupils combat bullying, learn to value each other’s differences, and improve wellbeing for staff the government has announced.

As Anti-Bullying Week gets underway, the Department for Education has confirmed funding for five leading organisations to support schools and colleges in championing tolerance and respect as part of their responsibility to tackle all forms bullying.

Over £3.5 million has already been provided to charities and organisations to prevent bullying, with the latest funding boost will go towards projects and programmes that tackle bullying including LGBT, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and victims of hate-related bullying.

This will build on the government’s new relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum, which has been designed to reflect a diverse range of views and backgrounds, whilst fostering respect for others and the understanding of healthy relationships. Subjects include teaching about bullying, healthy friendships, equality and the risks of stereotyping.

A new support scheme for school leaders is also being launched to promote good wellbeing across pupils, teachers and school and college staff. The scheme will provide one-to-one counselling and peer support to around 2,000 school leaders, helping those at deputy head level and above with their mental wellbeing.

Children and Families Minister Will Quince said: “Bullying in any form is unacceptable and can have a devastating effect on children, young people and their families. It is so important that we all take a stand against bullying so we can help create safe and inclusive places for young people both in schools and online.

“It’s crucial that our children and young people know how to treat one another with respect and celebrate one another’s differences. That’s why we are supporting organisations leading in the way with providing schools with specialist support and training for thousands of teachers to help respond to any concerns and to make sure bullying never prevents any young person from fulfilling their potential.”

An updated Education Staff Wellbeing Charter will also be published this week, which sets out commitments from the government, Ofsted, education unions and charities, to promote and protect the mental health of the education workforce.

Through the charter, the department pledges to work with the sector to drive down unnecessary workload, improve access to wellbeing resources, and champion flexible working, among a range of actions to support staff wellbeing. The department is now encouraging all state funded schools and colleges to sign up to the charter to create a united approach to supporting staff.

The Government’s Online Safety Bill will also deliver a groundbreaking new system of accountability, which will require Internet companies to protect its users from online abuse, and will make it easier to report harmful activity. Online safety should also be included in a school’s child protection policy and the Department for Education’s Teaching Online Safety in Schools guidance aims to support schools in teaching pupils how to stay safe online within new and existing school subjects, such as RSHE, citizenship and computing.

The announcement comes ahead of the UK government hosting its first global LGBT conference in June 2022. The theme of the event will be ‘Safe to be me’, with an aim to make progress on legislative reforms against violence and discrimination, and protect and promote the equal rights of LGBT people from around the world.

The global event will bring together elected officials, policy makers, and the international LGBT community to protect and promote the rights of LGBT people around the world.

Minister for Equalities, Mike Freer, said: “Bullying, especially when it targets an innate characteristic like being LGBT, is particularly damaging and distressing to children. It is vital we stamp it out and equip our brilliant teachers to do so effectively. 

“Every child has the right to be themselves and thrive at school. I look forward to meeting some of these organisations to hear more about their work.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Additional funding for organisations that support schools in their work to tackle all types of bullying is welcome.

“It’s encouraging to see a particular focus on protecting and supporting pupils with special needs and disabilities, and those with protected characteristics – including the LGBT+ community, and victims of hate-related bullying.  We know that certain groups are more likely to be impacted by bullying and it’s good to see this recognised in the additional support announced.

“The rise of online bullying should be a particular concern for us all. The growth in popularity of social media amongst young people has created a whole new set of challenges that go way beyond the school gate. Online bullying can do enormous harm, and far more needs to be done by both government and social media companies themselves to protect young people.

“The Online Safety Bill provides the government with an important opportunity to improve the way in which social media companies safeguard children and young people especially, and also how those who post harmful content are held to account for their actions. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

“Schools have a vital role to play when it comes to preventing and tackling bullying of all types but they cannot do it alone. We need parents, government and social media companies to all to play their part to protect and educate children and young people.”

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