Let’s talk bullying with Scope Role Models

Bullying can be an unfortunate part of growing up. From being deliberately left out to name calling and physical violence, bullying comes in many shapes and sizes. Starting a discussion is the first step to sending an anti-bullying message.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. We’ve all heard the traditional saying; in fact, words can have a lasting emotional impact on a person.

From wearing the wrong trainers, liking a different genre of music, being different from everyone else, to disability: bullying happens throughout the corridors, in the classroom and even outside the school gates.

Mainstream schools with disabled students can face increased levels of bullying due to misunderstanding. Now, Scope, one of the UK’s leading disability equality charities, is going into secondary schools in London and Leeds, to dispel disability myths.

It is a programme that could encourage a wave of change across England.

WORKSHOPS

“That is one of the best things about doing the sessions. You see a change in people’s behaviour,” explains Chloe Tear, a psychology and child development student, who also has cerebral palsy.

Many students in mainstream secondary schools are disabled, some students may have Down’s syndrome, visual impairments or another physical or hidden disability.

Growing up is challenging, growing up different to everyone else in your classroom can be isolating when others don’t understand the reasons that make you unique.

“At the start of the session students might be quite quiet and too shy to ask anything or not as engaged as you would like them to be. Towards the end you have people starting to ask questions,” continues Chloe.

“To have a lot of questions and have people really engaged, and the questions they ask are quite telling, it might be something that even I haven’t thought about that they didn’t know.”

In a bid to promote improved understanding of disability alongside encouraging open discussions and acceptance, Scope runs sessions in mainstream secondary schools to discuss disability and start a conversation – within the sessions bullying is a topic that arises.

RESPECT

Working to eradicate bullying is crucial and it all starts with understanding what makes people different. That’s why the theme for this year’s Anti-Bully Week is Choose Respect. Running from Monday 12 to Friday 16 November, schools UK wide were encouraged to promote the ethos of anti-bullying.

One message that should be more focused on is that of bullying due to disability.

Hannah Gallagher, who is a team coordinator for Scope sessions, explains that Scope sessions are in place to promote disability within the classroom, community and wider society.

It is an issue the charity believes needs to be further acknowledged as although important issues are raised within PSE classes in England, disability is rarely touched upon.

She says: “Just having that one-hour session, you can see perceptions changing… Students enjoy getting the chance to be open and ask lots of questions.”

From the workshops – where Scope Role Models such as Chloe attend to share their lived experience of disability, discrimination and starting the conversation with young people – students can get involved in quizzes, questionnaires whilst asking questions they may have never had the opportunity to ask.

Just one session has seen 89 per cent of students’ attitudes towards disability change.

“I think it is just as eye opening for the teachers as it is for the students,” adds Chloe. “It is important to show your students that you’re there. Sometimes it will go away but it is important for your students to know that if they need help you’re there and you will do something about it. It was comforting for me when I went to teachers I knew I was being taken seriously.”

It is for this reason Scope is a member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) to help promote discussions on disability alongside sending a message of anti-bullying.

TRAINING

Through increased understanding, guidance and support for disabled and non-disabled students in mainstream schools, a foundation of respect will arise.

As part of the Choose Respect campaign, ABA held a consultation with 800 children, teachers and members of the organisation and it was revealed that more emphasis on bullying as a behaviour choice was necessary.

Teachers, and students, have the power to set an example to eradicate bullying once and for all. Scope sessions are just one teaching tool available to change the conversation and introduce more respect for students who may face hardship due to their disability.

And it works.

During one session Chloe was joined by a pupil with cerebral palsy to answer questions from his classmates, Hannah explains that this was the first time his peers understood and appreciated why he couldn’t do certain things – prior to this discussion the subject had never been broached.

“I’m volunteering my time because I believe in the programme. I believe it works and I enjoy delivering the sessions – I enjoy being able to make that change.

I think it is important for schools to get on board with this, not only to raise awareness about disability and have open conversations; it’s also comforting for disabled students to know they are included. It reinforces the schools view on inclusivity,” concludes Chloe.

Similarly, teachers can get involved with ABA’s free online training courses as part of their All Together programme.

Covering modules including the definition of bullying, prevention and response, teachers can be at the forefront of engaging understanding and respect for everyone in the classroom and beyond the school gates.

More sessions from charities like Scope, training courses from ABA, and people sharing their experiences of bullying and discrimination will start a conversation on why everyone is unique and why we all deserve respect.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Scope

0808 800 3333

Anti-Bullying Alliance

Bullying UK

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