Why every week is anti-bullying week

Why every week is anti-bullying week

Matthew O'Reilly on why an ethos-led approach to education sustains an anti-bullying environment.

It is Anti-Bullying Week (11-15 November) and like many schools, up and down the country, we will be making time to open up conversations on this vital topic.

This year’s Anti-Bullying campaign, delivered by UK charity, the Anti-Bullying Alliance, calls for Change to Start with Us. I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment of the campaign, which states:

“Whether it is verbal, physical, online or in-person, bullying has a significant impact on a child’s life well in to adulthood. By making small, simple changes, we can break this cycle and create a safe environment for everyone. Because together, we can challenge bullying.”

The campaign highlights the collective responsibility we all share – pupils, teachers and parents – when it comes to dealing with bullying. At St Mary’s we are fortunate to have a very low incidence of bullying. I do agree that collective responsibility and open communication are vital parts of achieving this. But, when I reflect on this issue, I think the real cornerstone of our success lies in the very nature of our approach to education. In leading a school with a strong ethos at its core, I have come to appreciate the wide-reaching impact of the values we foster as a Mary Ward School. I see these values making a significant positive impact on bullying, day in, day out, week after week.

Our ethos is NOT a set of ‘dusty’ aims or meaningless words. At St Mary's values such as justice, friendship and respect are articulated to pupils on a daily basis – through a myriad of experiences, from the Head’s Assembly, to House meetings and Days of Reflection. From a very young age, our girls experience kindness, compassion and community. In fact, often these vital characteristics feel so natural in school life, their role can be taken for granted or overlooked.

From Reception onwards, smaller class sizes allow our teachers to nurture strong pupil/teacher bonds. This creates a warm, homely feel across our School and fosters an environment in which young children feel comfortable talking to adults about their concerns. By knowing each child, and through close communication with families and between staff, we can also quickly spot when things aren’t as they should be. So, if incidents do occur, our investment in pastoral care ensures that pupils get the support they need and their wellbeing will always be a priority for us.

Growing up in this environment has a real impact on our girls. They progress to Senior School with a ‘built-in’ resilience, sense of worth and an understanding of respect. Alongside the happy memories and the friendships that go with them, they leave Junior School equipped with a strong foundation for the future, ready to navigate the challenges of the teenage years that lie ahead!

Matthew O’Reilly

Head of St Mary’s Junior School, Cambridge