‘Help teachers tackle bullying’

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A Lisburn principal and former President of Northern Ireland’s biggest locally-based teaching union has urged the Education Minister to ensure teachers have the necessary support to ensure anti-bullying policies in schools are fit for purpose.

Gillian Garrett, head of Largymore Primary, was speaking following Education Minister John O’Dowd’s launch of a consultation to address bullying in schools (consultation period ends February 27, 2015)

“Sadly bullying is a fact of life for some children and we would welcome the Minister’s obvious interest in addressing the issue,” said Ms Garrett, a former President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union.

“However, one of our main concerns is that schools should have the resources and teachers need the support and training to ensure anti-bullying policies are fit for purpose,” she added.

“Communities raise children – not just parents or teachers – and the anti-bullying message must be central to school communities as well as those beyond the gates.

“That is our starting point in confronting bullying.

“Both the teaching and non-teaching staff need more support, especially in how to identify and address different types of bullying.

“Some would also see a need for specific training in areas like counselling and behaviour management.

“We feel it is important that all teachers are trained and supported to recognise and manage bullying and that this training is regularly updated to take account of changing trends in bullying or the introduction of new interventions to address bullying.

“Our children have a right to be educated in a non-threatening environment, and teachers need to know that support is there should they have to intervene in bullying situations – particularly physical bullying.”

Proposals contained in the consultation documents include that a common definition of bullying is outlined in legislation; that all grant aided schools must centrally record all incidents of bullying to include motivating factors and actions taken by the school; and that Boards of Governors must designate at least one governor to take responsibility for the school’s anti-bullying practices and procedures.