Thursday, September 3, 1998 Published at 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Bullying best prevented by pupils
Children are trained in anti-bullying tactics
Bullying can be most effectively tackled in schools by pupils themselves, says an educational psychologist and anti-bullying expert.
After running a two-year pilot project to reduce bullying in schools in Gateshead in the north-east of England, Valerie Besag has concluded that that the greatest impact on bullying comes from the intervention of other pupils.
The Gateshead anti-bullying project, supported by the Department for Education and Employment, has been designed to be transferable to other countries within the European Union. It is expected that the lessons learnt in Gateshead will be applied in schools in Italy, France, Spain, Holland and Ireland.
Speaking at a British Psychological Society conference in York, Valerie Besag said "it is pupils, not teachers, who see bullying going on" and these children should be given "the confidence and skills" to prevent it.
In Gateshead, Valerie Besag developed a school anti-bullying policy in which a group of older pupils were trained in counselling and negotiating, skills which could be used to tackle bullies and defuse problems among other pupils.
Supporting the training of pupils were adults from outside the school, such as the police, social workers or community nurses. Once a core group of pupils had been trained, these children advised others among their peers, widening the reach of the scheme.
This "peer support" system was supported by events such as an "Anti-Bullying Day" or assemblies promoting an ethos opposed to violence and bullying in schools.