Anti-Bullying Week runs from the 12th – 16th November, and this year it was properly marked by Daniel Zeichner MP, with a debate in Parliament. Anti-Bullying Week, run by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, gives schools a chance to hold conversations about bullying, and how we treat our peers, in a constructive way.

Mr Zeichner told the House of Commons about a local charity: “Red Balloon, a charity which runs learning centres, or schools, for bullied children was born 22 years ago by a constituent of mine, Dr Carrie Herbert, a local and national force of nature.“

“Red Balloon made the national papers this weekend as 17 year old Hannah Letters told her story. Intervention works“

Mr Zeichner also made the point that beyond organisations like Red Balloon, we should work to make sure we don’t need them in the way we do now by stopping bullying in mainstream schools:

“We must support schools to tackle bullying on a daily bases; mainstream education must be able to teach children how to treat each other with respect, not just how to pass exams. My sense is that many schools are increasingly pressured to focus on exams, with many of them, I would say, forced to limit the subjects that they offer due to funding pressures. It’s been controversial over recent years, but there have been some subjects that schools have been less able to give attention too because of the EBacc. The decline, in some cases, to take part in the arts subject can have some unintended consequences. Both teachers and academics have written to me with their concerns over the EBacc in recent weeks. They are concerned over students’ opportunities to develop creative skills and self-expression – those skills are vital, for both work and university, as well as being part of the community and to express themselves.“

Mr Zeichner also discussed the opportunities available to discuss respect at school:

“Taking arts education out of school education can reduce the opportunity for the discussions which arise from these very issues – how we relate to each other, what kind of society do we want to live in? Anti-Bullying Week offers schools the opportunity to engage in these discussions, providing a platform on which children can think further about these very important questions which do not appear on exam papers.“

The Cambridge MP also called for funding to take the issue:

“Although this debate is not a party political one, I will briefly make the point that this requires resource, and that the Chancellor’s relatively paltry amounts for schools announced in the Budget are unlikely to stretch across all the existing pressures that schools face, alongside new initiatives to tackle bullying, otherwise this will inevitably fall to already very stretched teachers.“

Mr Zeichner is the Co-Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Bullying, with Baroness Brinton.

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