Third Party was not at all suprised when I showed her this BBC article which gives survey results claiming nearly half of all 14 year olds and many 15 year olds were bullied. Infact her cynical reply was “and most of the others are the ones doing the bullying”. She then added, “but it goes down when it gets to exams and people stop being bothered with it”. This was, I think, probably a very telling statement about some of her recent school difficulties.
What I found interesting was the article basically told me what my experience in FE meant I already knew, bright kids who are bullied get lower GCSE grades than expected in a large part due to non-attendance issues and a lack of self-confidence. I have lost count of the number of times when in a safer environment, away from those who had tormented them, young people have found confidence late in the first year or into the second year of their A Level studies and blossomed, showing their full potential. I have also seen the destructive influence, though, of when bullying and particularly cyber-bulling has continued into post-compulsory environments and the issues have needed to be dealt with. I have to say, though, in my experience – particularly within the A Level environment it is the former which is more often the case. It is also, sometimes, why alot of FE A level students are actually 17-19 year olds rather than 16-18 year olds. The bullying, in a number of cases, either leads to the need for a year out of education to get their head together, a year to resit their GCSE’s or they attempt to go to school for A Levels, find they can’t cope still being with the bullies and so again underachieve at AS and then come into a college for a second chance. It is one of the reasons why the value added scores of the academic sections of colleges are particularly high when compared to other centres.
The fact the figure is so high worries me though. I know what I am going through with my daughter, in a supportive school with I would venture one of the best pastoral support set ups in the country – which is again shown in their value added scores (the distance travelled by pupils comparing their level at entry SATS with the GCSE’s they leave with, together with number of pupils claiming free school meals, etc). How many young people in this country are suffering and going to underachieve without the necessary support?
In my experience many 13 year olds are bitchy, year 9 is the reason why I never want to teach in a school. Girls do have issues with friendship groups which mean that people sometimes get excluded….watch any teen movie or read any book with teenage female characters and you will know this is the case. When does this turn into bullying? What can we then do about it? What can I do as a parent? How do I support my child effectively without turning into big brother? These are questions many of us as parents and teachers have to deal with and for which I have few answers. The truth is in each situation you really have to play it by ear.