Bullying remains an unacceptable reality in our schools, so teaching kindness is key

Today is December 1st and for most of our school communities, the festive season is filled with joy and excitement. Unfortunately, this happy holiday experience will not reach every student.

Our schools are lively, innovative and, above all, integrative places of learning for most children and young people. But for some, bullying remains an unacceptable reality.

Unfortunately, this is the case despite the best efforts of everyone in the education sector.

School communities have changed and evolved significantly since our last action plan was published in 2013.

Our classrooms are now becoming increasingly diverse in composition, to their benefit. Our country has also embraced a digital revolution and put the internet in everyone’s hands.

The world of social media has opened a new digital frontier.

Long before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was clear that the online and offline lives of children and young people and their families are becoming increasingly intertwined and often blurred.

It is up to us as a society to take the offensive to meet these challenges.

When Unesco released its Whole Education Approach to Preventing and Responding to Bullying in Schools in 2020, it listed nine components that can help reduce bullying and cyberbullying effectively. We must ensure that this becomes a reality in Irish society.

Earlier this year I set up a steering group under the expert guidance of Dr. Commissioned Noel Purdy of Stranmillis University College, Belfast to review and update the Department of Education’s 2013 Action Plan on Bullying.

As a result of the dedicated work of the steering group, today we are able to launch “Cineáltas” (“Kindness”), the department’s updated anti-bullying action plan.

This new plan draws on the 2019 Wellbeing Policy Statement and Framework for Practice, Unesco’s holistic approach to education, and national and international research and best practices. It takes into account the lived experience of the steering group members as well as the diverse range of students who participated in the focus groups and successfully places the students at the heart of the action plan.

Practical and inclusive, Cineáltas contains a wide range of actions to help us all work together towards a diverse, inclusive Irish society, free from bullying in all its forms and where individual differences are valued and celebrated.

Our vision is to equip schools with the necessary tools to combat cyberbullying, racism, gender identity bullying or sexual harassment, among others.

Schools must produce an accessible School Culture and Values ​​Statement – ​​a Cineáltas Charter – that outlines each school’s culture and values ​​in an age-appropriate way.

The department will support schools in the development and implementation of this statement with input from the whole school community – including student support teams, who will facilitate student participation and voice in all aspects of the work.

There will also be an acknowledgment process – a Cineáltas flag for schools that promote targeted measures to prevent and combat bullying.

The department will also continue to introduce and develop a postgraduate qualification for post-primary SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) teachers.

The program will help equip them with the substantive knowledge, confidence and skills to plan and conduct SPHE and Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) and facilitate student learning relevant to all aspects of the Specification, including preventing and combating bullying.

Work continues with the DCU Anti-Bullying Center to ensure that Fuse’s anti-bullying and online safety programs are available and promoted for schools.

We will also promote the development of a national database to facilitate the anonymous collection of data to facilitate the production of an annual report on bullying in our schools.

The number of psychologists from the National Educational Psychology Service (NEPS) in the school sector will be increased and proactive measures will be taken to promote the study of educational psychology.

Most importantly, the department is committed to providing our school communities with the tools necessary to create a safe, 21st century school environment where no one feels alone or afraid to speak up.

The hashtag #BeKind has become trending around the world and a mantra for a generation of us young learners.

We know that the staff at our schools work hard to build students’ confidence in their own abilities and to encourage them to form strong, lasting relationships with their classmates.

However, more needs to be done if we are to face the challenges of life in the 21st century. The release of Cineáltas begins the journey.

This action plan will help children and young people understand the importance of including others and what to do when they or someone else is being bullied.

Cineáltas is about nurturing a spirit of inclusivity from an early age, where every child knows that kindness and empathy are just as important as algebra and reading.

It provides a roadmap for all of our school communities to ensure that kindness is extended to all of our students, without exception, because actions must truly speak louder than words.

Norma Foley TD is Secretary of Education

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/bullying-remains-an-unacceptable-reality-in-our-schools-so-lessons-in-kindness-are-key-42186750.html Bullying remains an unacceptable reality in our schools, so teaching kindness is key

Fry Electronics Team

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