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Schools board slams anti-bullying plans

The Local/pvs · 28 Jan 2011, 11:43

Published: 28 Jan 2011 11:43 GMT+01:00

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The agency has published its analysis of the programmes deployed in Sweden in a new report published on Friday which shows that the eight programmes are ineffective and counter-productive, recommending that schools re-evaluate their methods.

"The agency is unable to recommend any of the programmes in their entirety," said Annika Hjelm at the schools board.

Hjelm cited one of the programmes - Friends - as an example of an "effective initiative" which nevertheless has elements that are counter-productive.

"One of the core ideas is the supporting peers, which should also function as observers and rapporteurs to the adults, which could lead to increased bullying," she said.

"There are examples of how peers are subjected to degrading treatment. Having students become the eyes and ears for the adults has been linked to an increase in bullying in schools generally," Annika Hjelm said.

Andreas Drufva at Friends told The Local on Friday that while the group welcomed the report, it's methods should not be treated as a ready-made programme.

"The agency has said that none of the programmes should be used in their entirety. Many methods have received praise and we do not offer a complete programme but are an organisation which has developed methods to tackle bullying," he said.

Drufva pointed out that its method applied to map the problem was one which received praise and said that Friends would be studying the report "with interest and draw conclusions from it".

Many schools are reported to use anti-bullying programmes, and often blend several different methods. Ola Lindholm, executive editor of Kamratposten, a popular magazine aimed at school children, is outraged:

"It's absurd that the municipalities are buying themselves free of the bullying issue. They put local tax revenue on programmes that have no proven efficacy and which in many cases have the opposite effect," he said.

He claims to be not "one iota surprised" by the news that the anti-bullying programmes do not work.

"We who have been working with schools and bullying issues have surmised for a long time, that the programmes that municipalities purchase, and which are not based on sound research, do not have any effect."

He meanwhile welcomed the agency's report.

"It is fantastic that the study has been done. This proves that you have to work with bullying in a completely different way."

The report shows that girls are just as vulnerable to bullying as boys. Efforts also work differently for girls and boys with the evaluation showing that what helps the boys may have the opposite effect for girls.

"There are several initiatives that reduce bullying involving boys. Efforts to promote relationships and to create closeness and togetherness. Standards of conduct that are developed in cooperation with staff and students," Annika Hjelm said.

"For the boys it also matters that there are disciplinary strategies, so they know the consequences of non-compliance," she said.

For girls, a systematic deployment of guards during breaks has proven effective.

"That all pupils know how it works is effective, especially for girls."

Story continues below…

"Students should be also involved in planning efforts. They must also have a say in the work against bullying," she said, observing that this is not the case today with programmes also poorly coordinated with school staff.

"Decisions are often taken at the municipal level that all schools should work with the programmes. When the programme is not coordinated, it leads to some resistance among staff."

Hjelm agreed with Ola Lindholm that the programmes are poorly researched.

"All the programmes are based on a weak scientific premise."

According to the survey, 1.5 percent of students are bullied for a year or longer. This equates to 2-3 students in the average school of 191 students.

A total of 10,000 students in grades 4-9 (ages 11-16) participated in the study. The programmes that have been studied over a period of three years are Friends, SET, Lions Quest, Olweusprogrammet, Farstametoden, Skolkomet, Skolmedling and Stegvis.

The Local/pvs (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:26 January 28, 2011 by Sweetdishgurl
I think the problem starts at home. Bullies often have parents that are treating their children poorly. That can mean that the parents are filling their kids heads with wacky ideas about beauty or the opposite, not getting involved with their kids lives. Parents teach empathy, kindness and love and if they fail doing that their kids usually become bullies- a tleast that is my opinion. Education starts at home. Teachers need to pay attention and not just report home but use class time to teach kindness and friendship. Seems pretty simply to me.
14:30 January 28, 2011 by Rolle
Bullying exists anywhere... As sad and horrible as it is, it's an undeniable act of the human nature. I do think schools, but specially parents and families, should put their best efforts in preventing it. But it's not gonna go away, and whatever gov't approach to it it's gonna translate into a big waste of taxpayers money.
15:10 January 28, 2011 by karex
Bottom line: there are no ready-made off-the-shelf miraculous solutions. Parents do have to get more involved, many these days don't teach their children the basic principles of respect, so what do we expect? It is increasingly alarming to me the increase in selfishness and egotistical and narcissistic behaviour. This usually stems from people who believe that they are entitled to more than everyone else. Some are born with this problem(that's a different issue), but many end up like this due to bad parenting.

On another level, bullies may arise from households where they are themselves bullied: they can't vent their anger on those who bully them because they're usually weaker (otherwise the bullying wouldn't work), so they turn around and bully someone weaker than them in turn.

Whatever... the issue is much too complex to be effectively solved with ready-made solutions.
15:26 January 28, 2011 by Maler1971
Rolle has a good point. Human nature it is. How do we change what is programmed into us? People become jealous of others. They respond in various ways, one is bullying .

Teaching starts at home. Empathy is key like Swed.Gurl says.

So question is ......

Parents responsibility ? Schools responsibility?

Parents need to take responsibility.
15:33 January 28, 2011 by Swedesmith
There will always be bullies in life, not only with children but in the adult world as well. Parents would do well to teach their children to stand up for themselves (a little martial arts training could serve well). Bullies will almost always back down from a person who refuses to be victimized.
17:07 January 28, 2011 by Zala Russe
Any child (or adult for that matter) is capbable of bullying. Important to address the phenomenon of bullying, rather than simply label the individual. Bullying is an invert form of cowardice based on fear. That root cause needs to be investigated with the individual on a 'zero tolerance' basis.
23:20 January 28, 2011 by Rebel
I urge you to examine in your own mind the assumptions which must lay behind using the police power to insist that once-sovereign spirits have no choice but to submit to being schooled by strangers."

- John Taylor Gatto

Along with the fascist notion of forcing kids into government schools, without an option for home schooling or true private schools existing, then the state has an obligation to protect the kids forced into their institutions.
23:27 January 28, 2011 by Uncle
@Rolle and Maler.

You are saying that the bullying education should begin with the parents. I take it you mean - the parents of bullies, since the parents of sweet and soft kids are usually do not bear responsibility, but are indirectly the victims of bullies.

Do you even realise how little bullies' parents care about their kids behavior? Many of them are pure lowlifes, others on the contrary - rich and cold. Some others think that their kids are strong and cool and popular and therefore will not do anything. You cannot change people. It is like you cannot avoid rape by convincing the rapists that raping is not very good. They KNOW that.


I was in a school where victims of bullying, who became violent, drew even more attention and it became group entertainment to hold these victims on constant defence. The problem is not physical bullying, but mental. Verbal and electronic hunt by tens of people of one victim. What martial arts could help here?

Read a bit info on psychologists suggestions. The main line is to teach kids to make fun of themselves and peacefully settle the first attempts of bullying by whether directly saying "Listen, I do not like that you say that" or "Why would you say that?" (for younger ages - the exposure of bullying makes it uncomfortable to the bully. And sarcastically agreeing with the bully in the later ages: "Yep, I am slow indeed" or "Thank you for saying that". It defuses the attention.
17:41 January 29, 2011 by Swedesmith

It's not that I don't agree with you, but I do not believe any anti-bullying campaign is going to turn the world into a beautiful place filled with butterflies and unicorns. It won't hurt to try but, the truth is, there will always be bullies. I believe that it is every parent's responsibility to not only discourage their children not to be bullies but to also teach them how to handle being bullied.

When I was in school, I was taunted by a bully constantly for a couple of weeks. I tried every de-escalation technique that I could think of...ignoring him, agreeing with him, asking him to please stop, etc. Nothing worked. So, I punched him in the nose and, for good measure, kicked him in the nuts. He never bothered me again.

I can't say that violence is right, but in my case it worked.
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