Inspired by The Anti-Bullying Alliance and their Choose Respect campaign, we at Hand Made Places are looking at various anti-bulling techniques and processes. We’re particularly interested in the ways playground design can help to combat bullying and loneliness through promoting respect amongst children. One such technique used in schools is the Buddy System – but more about that later!
First, let’s look at the hard facts surrounding bullying in schools.
Bullying impacts the lives of people across the UK, whether it’s due being bullied directly, or knowing someone who is. Unfortunately, you can guarantee that in life you will encounter the effects of bullying.
It is reported that 50% of young people in the UK are bullied at some point during their school life. This can be any form of bullying: verbal, physical or even cyber. These are all forms of bullying.
Bullying of all kinds will have a substantial negative impact on the lives of young people, their friends and family. It’s not “character building” and is not “part of growing up”. It is abuse and it has long-standing psychological effects.
Because of this, here at Hand Made Places we want to show our ongoing support for the Anti-Bullying Alliance‘s mission. It’s time to make schools safer, bully-free environments for children, at every stage of their education.
How to Encourage Respect in Schools and on the Playground
Respect is paramount to creating a safe, supportive environment. There are so many crucial aspects of respect which add up to good practice in life far beyond school. So how can children show and develop respect?
- Empathising or “putting yourself in another’s shoes”,
- Communicating feelings,
- Debating calmly,
- Approaching all forms of interaction with care – this means face-to-face and over the internet.
In fact, the very act of “choosing” respect is significant. It reminds us that we have an ongoing responsibility for our interactions with others. We must encourage children to make the decision to act with kindness.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can bring these aspects of respect to the school playground.
- Playground furniture – this puts communication at the centre of attention.
- Outdoor sensory equipment – these activities promote mindfulness and often involve teamwork.
- Trim trails – this equipment requires turn-taking and also allows children to exert themselves in a non-aggressive manner.
“Stand Up for Us”
The Anti-Bullying Alliance established Anti-Bullying Week in 2004. Their first theme was ‘Stand up for us’. This theme targeted primary and secondary schools all over the UK, and urged them to improve their bullying policy.
Schools up and down the UK need to continue to implement an anti-bullying operation as part of their school prospectus. There are plenty of techniques which educational establishments can employ to reduce bullying. One technique schools often adopt is the “Buddy System”.
What is the Buddy System?
Buddying is a process whereby one student, usually older, is partnered up with another student.
They will become a first port of call for the pupil, helping to put a stop to the stigma of telling someone about your negative experiences at school.
The pupil can go to their buddy about a variety of different problems, including bullying.
This is something children often keep to themselves due to either fear or pride. However, having someone who is your peer to speak to (rather than an adult) can be a lot less daunting for younger children.
It doesn’t stop there: having this peer will also help to the pupil to develop confidence. This will make them much more likely to approach an adult themselves.
Peer support can help children through difficult times. With someone on your side, it helps put a stop to feelings of isolation. This is a key factor when it comes to children being in harm’s way due to bullying.
Remember: The ‘buddy’ must have prior training. Significant issues such as bullying should always be taken to a member of staff.
Putting the Buddy System into Action on the Playground
At Hand Made Places we are fans of the buddy system. Alongside helping children who are victims of bullying, we believe that it’s also one of the best ways to promote healthy relationships.
You can use playground furniture to implement the buddy system. For example, this friendly-looking bench can be seen from anywhere on the playground; either Mr Buddy Bus Stop or Mrs Buddy Bus Stop stands proudly beside a small timber bench.
This is a recognisable area where a child can sit and wait for their buddy to come to them. You could also use it as an area where a child in distress can seek some quiet time with someone willing to help.
We propose that you choose an area for the Buddy Bus Stop where playground supervisors or teachers can see it at all times. This way, anyone at the bench will receive the necessary attention as soon as possible.
When you teach children to choose respect, they will be more likely come to someone’s aid.
Furthermore, they will have the self-respect to remove themselves from an upsetting situation and ask for help.
It’s particularly to important encourage communication and listening in an inclusive way. That’s why we also offer the Share Chair. This two-person seat is a clever tool for children who may find eye contact difficult.
Another of our wooden playground furniture units is the Friendship Bench.
This is slightly different to the Buddy Bus Stop in the sense that it is much larger and encourages children to interact with a social group.
The Friendship Bench is less tailored towards the Buddy system. However, it is a great piece of equipment when it comes to helping children who are being bullied by a circle of friends. That’s because the Friendship Bench makes it easier to find an alternative group to play with.
This seat also combines features of the Share Chair, providing corner seats for reducing the pressure of eye contact.
Again we suggest that staff monitor the area to ensure it remains a safe space for vulnerable pupils.
Time to Take Action
Remember: bullies often separate pupils from their friends, or turn people against the victim. Therefore schools must ensure that pupils are surrounded by friendly faces who are ready to treat one another with kindness and consideration. This will help to reduce playtime bullying.
There is a long way to go before we can completely eradicate bullying from our schools, but by teaching children to choose respect you set them on the right path for life.
Want more tips for playgrounds and learning? Here are more articles from the Hand Made Places blog:
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