Bullying, restorative justice and teenage girls!

14 November 2012

This article appeared in The Guardian's TeacherNetwork section today. Passmore was one of the first schools we worked in back in 2003.

Having worked with young people in schools for more than 20 years I have sadly dealt with bullying in all its many forms. Each year at Passmores we survey our students' experiences of bullying so we can look at tackling it. This will come as no surprise to parents of teenagers or those who work with them, but the vast majority of issues we face are spats between teenage girls – especially when they have friendship groups which are an odd number. Three is most definitely not the magic number in this case.

The fine line between bullying and what is actually just a broken relationship, combined with our young peoples' inexperience in dealing with these highly emotional moments, is a huge challenge at times. As teachers we will all have suffered the frustration of spending all day dealing with so called bullying between friends, only to find them walking around school arm-in-arm and laughing the next day.

As a dad myself, I know how easily you can fall into having unpleasant thoughts about the bully who has upset your child, but as a teacher I don't want the bully to be punished; I want them to change their behaviour. This is not always what the parent of the bullied child wants to hear and it can be a real challenge. 

One particular incident springs to mind, although it happened some years ago. I was faced with an ongoing love–hate relationship between two of my year nine girls. Eventually, having realised that my diplomacy and arbitration skills were perhaps less refined than Kofi Annan's, I called for the back-up of a member of staff who was our resident expert in restorative justice meetings and had previously worked for a youth offending team.

Read the full article by clicking on Bullying