Do we need Anti-Bullying Week this year?

This is my eighth Anti-Bullying Week and whilst I get weary that there still is a need for it (and this year has highlighted that in new and at times terrifying ways), I don't think I've ever been more enthusiastic and hopeful about what we can achieve. We are very pleased to announce that the theme for Anti-Bullying Week 2020 is: United Against Bullying.

Our Anti-Bullying Week 2020 manifesto for change:

    This year, more than ever, we’ve witnessed the positive power that society can have when we come together to tackle a common challenge.

    Anti-Bullying Week is no different. Bullying has a long lasting effect on those who experience and witness it. But by channelling our collective power, through shared efforts and shared ambitions, we can reduce bullying together. From parents and carers, to teachers and politicians, to children and young people, we all have a part to play in coming together to make a difference.

    We’re all a piece in the puzzle, and together, we’re united against bullying.

    We first started thinking about this theme in the last part of 2019 as many young people we spoke to said they felt our society was divided and that it was having an impact on the actions of children. Years of talking (arguing) about Brexit, angry debates in parliament, arguments on football pitches and YouTubers 'sending' for each other left, right and centre. One young person said ‘it’s like adults want us to behave better than they do sometimes’.  

    And then 2020 happened … our lives have all been turned upside down in completely different ways. Many are missing school and many are relieved not to have to attend. But for everyone school and education is now a very different place. Some people asked me if we would be able to hold Anti-Bullying Week at all this year. We’ve pondered as a team what the best approach should be. And we’ve been thinking in recent days and weeks about the appropriateness of a message of unity this year. 

    We asked young people how the theme idea made them feel now. They were loud and clear: 

      It makes me feel like part of a community that stands up for the right things.

      Powerful - we will all work together to make sure that no child ever has to experience bullying again.

      Empowered - we all have a part to play in combatting bullying, no matter who you are or where you’re from - you can make a difference to someone’s life.

      2020 has been a heartbreakingly hard year for many and there's a significant amount of uncertainty ahead. But we are seeing examples of what can happen when we come together for a common goal. Whether it be communities coming together to make sure everyone has their shopping, key workers continuing to work despite the risk to their and their loved ones lives or people enduring a solitary lockdown to try and save others. Communities have worked together. 

      The abhorrent murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matters protests have put a spotlight on the systemic racism that continues to exists in our society. People from all over the world have joined forces to say ‘no more’. There is a distinct lack of research about racist bullying amongst children and young people but we have heard time and time again from black young people that they have experienced racist bullying in school. We must be more direct in our approach to tackling this issue ourselves.

      ABA commits doing more to address racist bullying amongst children and young people. We will be vocal that Black Lives Matter. We will unite against racist bullying. This will involve following our process at NCB (where ABA is based) of gathering research evidence and listening carefully to the voices of black children and young people and partner organisations who can share insight to shape our direction.

      Levels of bullying remain high, with our own poll last year showing that one child in every classroom is experiencing bullying every day. If we come together to tackle this issue as one we could achieve so much more. Last year we started on this journey by working with young people to develop a set of evidence based recommendations for our key stakeholders about how they could prevent and respond appropriately to bullying. The key stakeholders were young people, parents, schools, media and influencers, government and technology companies. The recommendations were clear, but we haven't amplified them enough. We need all these stakeholders to come together and listen to young people this year. 

      We are proud to have the continued support of SafeToNet to help us bring Anti-Bullying Week to life. We'll be providing a range of tools and resources for schools and parents. We'll hold events online working with young people to deliver them. We will also be holding Odd Socks Day on the Monday of Anti-Bullying Week, where children and adults where odd socks to school or work to celebrate what makes us all unique.

      So what part are you going to play? You've got plenty of time to get ready. We'll be here to help you. Whether it be sharing your voice against bullying on social media, improving your school's anti-bullying policy, delivering online training sessions, speaking up for a young person you know is being bullied or setting a better example to young people - you are a piece of the puzzle. Together, we'll unite against bullying.