Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
10 MAY 2006
Q60 Chairman: You are both saying
the same thing really, because Deborah is sayingdid you
call her, or him, a "relationship counsellor"?
Mrs Duncan: She is a behaviour
monitor, but she does all sorts. She works with all the vulnerable
youngsters. She is there and they know she is there, and they
can go to her at any time.
Q61 Chairman: That is the other side.
What about tackling the inability to build a relationship that
John has put his finger on?
Mrs Duncan: She can do that sort
of thing as well.
Q62 Chairman: She can do that as
Mrs Duncan: Yes, she is a trained
counsellor and she uses all sorts of mechanisms. I look at this
list that I have of people who have been bullies during this year,
and they are for a variety of reasons, as was mentioned earlier.
For example, some are bullies because their parents are bullies.
I see that when they come in and challenge me, if I discipline
their child. They try to bully me, and shout and swear at me,
and so on. I have had a couple of cases of that just this week
actually. Often they are learning that bullying behaviour at home;
or sometimes, like you say, it is because nobody loves them at
home and so they are seeking to get attention and love at school,
and they do it in that way. There are different reasons for it.
Q63 Jeff Ennis: I guess that the
person you have in the school that the kids can go to would be
very much along the same lines as the German modela teacher
to trust, as it werementioned in the previous session.
It is a similar principle, I guess.
Mrs Duncan: Yes, it is a similar
principle, but we have a confidentiality policy. The children
are clear that sometimes she will have to take it further and
tell. She is our child protection officer as well. So every week,
on a Tuesday morning, she comes to see me and she tells me any
significant things that are going on, to keep me briefedwhich
is also important.
Q64 Jeff Ennis: Do you think that
sort of formal structure would have more impact on the bullying
situations in school?
Mrs Duncan: I think so, because
it is sometimes an issue in large schools that children do not
know who to go to and do not know who they can trust. It is having
clear people who are marked out as, "These are the people
you can go to if you are being bullied". Going back to the
teacher training, that is important. I think it is happening with
initial teacher training now, because the ones I am getting through
on interview are very clued up on it. I asked a safeguarding question
last Friday on interview: "How can we safeguard the safety
of our children in schools?". They were very clued up on
child protection, bullying, all that sort of thing. I think that
the other speaker was right: the established teachers may sometimes
need to be reminded, and we have to do that with in-house training.
Q65 Jeff Ennis: Do you think that
the development of Children's Trusts and that sort of situation
within the Every Child Matters agenda, and all of that,
will impact positively upon bullying in schools?
Mrs Duncan: I do and, going back
to my point that if you make schools do it they will do it, we
now have a responsibility with the Every Child Matters agenda,
and Ofsted are looking at "How are you tackling safe, secure
and healthy?". In our school self-evaluation form you have
to say, "What are you doing to make sure that every child
is safe in school?".
Q66 Jeff Ennis: Does the DfES give
a consistent message on bullying or could it offer more support
to schools, do you think?
Mrs Duncan: It is not consistent,
I thinkbecause we are both pausing. We know where to go
to look for advice and help on bullying. We know about Kidscape;
we know about some of the websites. Again, I do not think it is
as strong a message as we have had on, say, racism.
Q67 Chairman: What about my criticism
of Ofsted? It seemed to me that you have good evidence but, if
there are only 6% . . . . He has gone.
Mrs Duncan: He has not!
Q68 Chairman: Oh, dear! But do you
think Ofsted could do more?
Mrs Duncan: I will defend David
slightly, in that, under the new arrangements for inspection and
in the self-evaluation form, there is a whole section where you
have to talk about children's safety, security, personal well-being
and emotional well-being. So they are doing it indirectly through
that particular section.
Q69 Chairman: We have let him off
Mrs Duncan: Which is rare!
Q70 Chairman: John?
Mr D'Abbro: It is rare for a headteacher
to defend Ofsted. Yes, I would have to defend David. We need to
understandand I am coming at this from a special school
perspectivethat children learn behaviour from adults. We
have to look at where does this problem fit vis-a"-vis society
and school. Schools are such a socialisation agent. I do not want
to get into the macro politics of that, but basically we get the
sort of children we have always wanted, because we put certain
procedures and certain systems in place. In my experience, most
children learn their bullying habits from their parents or carers.
I would hate to believe that, within the workforce that I manage,
we have got bullying within the staff; but, if we did, it would
follow that staff would bully pupils, and pupils would bully pupils.
We can look at Ofsted and say, "Is Ofsted doing it?"
or "Is the DfES doing it?"; but it is actually an endemic
problem within society, in the same way as we now have legislation
that safeguards the rights of minority groups. We need to look
at that in relation to bullying. It is Deborah's point: if we
made schools do it, I think that it would have more impact than
it does currently.
Q71 Mr Carswell: In terms of tackling
bullying, I am concerned about something I have heard about called
restorative justice. There is a school in my constituency where
it is used as a tool. Do you think that it is part of the problem
or the solution? Is it something that you would use in your school,
or would you be wary of it? My fear is that it means that people
can do things and not face consequences. Do you share that concern?
Mrs Duncan: I went to a conference
in London recently about behaviour management strategies and I
was speaking about positive discipline, which is one I have used
in my school. Going back to what John was saying, the system I
have is a pyramid and it says very clearly, "If you do this,
this will happen". The next stage is, "If you do this,
this will happen". So every child in the school knows exactly
what will happen. I think that is really important. Having to
follow through on those this year in my school has been quite
difficult, because I have gone into a school where that has not
been the case. There has been a lot of talking about what you
have done and being sorry for it, but not being punished for it.
I very much believe that you do need to punish bullies. Otherwise,
they will carry on doing it. At the same time, however, I have
colleagues in the Association of School and College Leaders who
have tried restorative justice. I think that it is good practice
to discuss things and be open about them, but only if the victim
wants to be involved in that. As we heard earlier, if the victim
is then presented in front of the bullies, it can make them feel
even more vulnerable. So if it comes from the victim and they
want to do it, then it can be good. I would never discourage activities
where children discuss, in circle time or tutor time, if somebody
has done something wrong and they are sorry. I think that you
can have a combination in a school, but I very much believe that,
if people bully and do it persistently, they need to be punished
for it. That is what I am doing; but I am getting a hard time
from some parents about it, because I am seen to be too strict.
Q72 Helen Jones: We talk about the
learned behaviour of children. I wondered if we could talk a little
about methods for encouraging good behaviour and how you feel
that impacts on bullies. I always feel that when we are discussing
a problem like that we are in danger of missing the fact that
many of our children do behave well. I can remember my own experience
of teaching, where we had, for instance, a number of children
with disabilities. I was very impressed by the way the young people
looked after them, sought to include them in everything, and it
was a positive relationship on both sides. What sort of a role
do you think having strategies for encouraging good behaviour
has in tackling bullying, and in rewarding good behaviour?
Mr D'Abbro: I think that you have
to catch children being good. The big problem with schools is
that often we catch children being inappropriate. I would like
to think that, within the service areas that I manage, we actually
have systems in place that catch children getting it right, so
that children learn that they get praise for getting it right
rather than being highlighted because they get it wrong. That
is not to say you do not have the systems in place to challenge
children when they get it wrong. I would contend that the single
most important thing in the work that we do is the quality of
relationship between the adult and the child. Within the context
of the quality of the relationship, if you have effective and
positive relationships that is the tool that you will use to effect
change and challenge children when their behaviour is inappropriate.
If you are saying do we use enough opportunities to role modelto
show children the right way of sorting out issuesthen I
think that in effect, in practice, yes, you should do. You challenge
children when they get it wrong and you have procedures, but what
underpins that is the quality of relationship and the quality
of care between the teacher, the facilitator of learning, and
the student, the pupil.
Q73 Helen Jones: Deborah, you said
you had a positive discipline strategy. Does that include positive
rewards, and so on?
Mrs Duncan: Yes, we have a pyramid
of rewards as well.
Q74 Helen Jones: I have had a local
school that did that very successfully.
Mrs Duncan: Yes, there are a lot
of these systems about behaviour for learning, positive discipline,
and that sort of thing. What we talked about was that there is
a large number of children who we call "ghost children".
They come into school, do as they are told, do exactly what they
are asked to do, and go home. Nobody talks to them; nobody praises
them; nobody has anything to do with them. In this system we have
changed that, and you get a stamp in your planner for turning
up on time every day for a week, for not getting any bad comments,
for just being well-behaved and doing what you are supposed to
do. The other thing we did was, at the beginning of the year,
we taught the behaviour that we want. I think that to assume that
children know how to behave these days is a false assumption.
Some children have never been taught how to behave. I have just
had a manners and respect fortnight, where we have talked about
how to behave properly. I am at the moment teaching my daughter,
who is three, that; but some of these children have either never
learned it or have forgotten it. So we have been giving them praise
for opening a door for another person; for saying "please"
and "thank you"; for just using basic manners. Some
of them thought that it was a bit of a joke, but it has made them
think about it. I think that you have to teach behaviour; you
have to teach the children what you expect. Then you can hold
them to account if they do not do it; but if you have never taught
them and they are not taught it at home, then it is not their
fault, is it?
Q75 Chairman: This is such clear
and sweet reason coming from the two of you. Why does it not permeate
the culture of every school in the land?
Mrs Duncan: I do not know. I would
argue that there are a lot of schools where there is very good
practice in terms of tackling bullying.
Q76 Chairman: I am switching and
swatching here, in the sense that all the stuff that you see in
the press about "horrific schools" and so on, I do not
find. I find that most of the schools I go to are very good schools,
operating well, and all the rest. On the other hand, when we get
the Children's Commissioner saying, "Bullying is endemic",
you do worry that, below the surface, there are a lot of children
who are not getting the best out of their educational opportunities,
because bullying is not recognised in the way that you two seem
to recognise it: as a genuine problem.
Mrs Duncan: It is always there,
and what slightly worries me is the rise of the use of technology
for bullying. I have just been dealing with one incident that
built up over the weekend on MSN. These girls were emailing each
other nasty messages all weekend, and then it erupted in a fight
on Monday. It is often, particularly with girls, texting and emailing,
and things like that. That has increased in recent times; so I
think that bullying just takes different forms as you go through
Q77 Chairman: What rules do you have
on mobile phones and technology like that? What are the rules
in your school on the carrying and use of phones?
Mrs Duncan: The rule in my school
is that they can have one in their possession, but it has to be
switched off or on silent, or whatever, and they cannot use it
during the school day between 8.30 and 3.30. However, I am mindful
that, particularly with girls, parents often want them to have
one for safety reasons. I am trying to move with the times, but
if they are using them during the school day they are confiscated.
Q78 Chairman: John?
Mr D'Abbro: The same as that,
yes. I can think of occasions where children may have legitimate
uses, or, rather, a legitimate need to use the phone during the
school day, and they would have to ask permissionand I
think that is reasonable.
Q79 Chairman: Having four children,
I have been familiar with bullying. One child particularly was
bullied. What is the rule? I remember complaining to a head that
the child was being bullied, and the feeling was, "The bullying
is taking place just outside the school gate, and my remit only
runs to the school gate". What do you see as your remit in
terms of bullying? You have just said that the technology allows
someone to bully all weekend, remotely.
Mrs Duncan: I cannot punish a
child if they have bullied somebody at the weekend, but sometimes
that spills over into school the next day. So I punish them for
what happens as a result.