Anti-Bullying Policy

1. The Policy
In accordance with the requirements of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 and the code of behaviour guidelines issued by the NEWB, the Board of Management of Gaelscoil Ultain has adopted the following anti-bullying policy within the framework of the school’s overall code of behaviour. This policy fully complies with the requirements of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools which were published in September 2013.

2. Key Principles of Best Practice
The Board of Management of Gaelscoil Ultain recognises the very serious nature of bullying and the negative impact that it can have on the lives of pupils and is therefore fully committed to the following key principles of best practice in preventing and tackling bullying behaviour:

  • A positive school culture and climate which-
    • is welcoming of difference and diversity and is based on inclusivity;
    • encourages pupils to disclose and discuss incidents of bullying behaviour in a non-threatening environment; and
    • promotes respectful relationships across the school community;
  • Effective leadership;
  • A school-wide approach;
  • A shared understanding of what bullying is and its impact;
  • Implementation of education and prevention strategies (including awareness raising measures) that-
    • build empathy, respect and resilience in pupils; and
    • explicitly address the issues of cyber-bullying and identity-based bullying including in particular, homophobic and transphobic bullying.
  • Effective supervision and monitoring of pupils;
  • Supports for staff;
  • Consistent recording, investigation and follow up of bullying behaviour (including use of established intervention strategies); and
  • On-going evaluation of the effectiveness of the anti-bullying policy.

3. Definition of Bullying
In accordance with the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools bullying is defined as follows:

Bullying is unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted, by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time.

The following types of bullying behaviour are included in the definition of bullying:

  • Deliberate exclusion, malicious gossip and other forms of relational bullying
  • Cyber-bullying
  • Identity based bullying such as homophobic bullying, racist bullying, bullting based on a person’s membership of the Traveller community and bullying of those with disabilities or special educational needs,

Isolated or once-off incidents of intentional negative behaviour, including a once-off offensive or hurtful text message or other private messaging, do not fall within the definition of bullying and should be dealt with, as appropriate, in accordance with the school’s code of behaviour.

However, in the context of this policy, placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed and/or repeated by other people will be regarded as bullying behaviour.

Negative behaviour that does not meet this definition of bullying will be dealt with in accordance with the school’s code of behaviour.

Additional information on different types of bullying is set out in Section 2 of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools

4. Relevant Teachers

The relevant teachers for investigating and dealing with bullying are the Class Teachers, the Principal and the Deputy Principal.

5. Education and prevention strategies

The education and prevention strategies that will be used by Gaelscoil Ultain are as follows:

  • We offer a wide range of extra-curricular and curricular activities to provide pupils with opportunities to develop a positive sense of self-worth
  • The use of a number of curriculum components and programmes, such as Stay Safe, SOHE, CPSE and RSE, to promote and foster an attitude of respect for all. We recognise that continuous professional development for teachers is required in these areas
  • Use of teaching strategies, such as Group Work and Paired Learning, that increase a level of acceptance and respect for other students
  • Use of Circle Time in class
  • Use of Posters and Visual Displays throughout school displaying key respect messages
  • Use of School Assembly to promote respect for all members of school community
  • Monitored use of technology in school
  • The continual promotion of positive behaviour school wide
  • The modelling of respectful behaviour school wide
  • Educating pupils about appropriate use of social media
  • Organisation of an annual Anti-Bullying Awareness Week
  • Use of all opportunities within curricular areas to foster an attitude of respect for all, to promote the value of diversity, to address prejudice and stereotyping and to highlight the unacceptability of bullying behaviour

6. Procedures for investigating and dealing with bullying

Gaelscoil Ultain’s procedures for investigation, follow-up and recording of bullying behaviour and the established intervention strategies used by the school for dealing with cases of bullying behaviour are as follows:

  • The primary aim for the relevant teacher in investigating and dealing with bullying is to resolve any issues and to restore, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved (rather than to apportion blame).
  • In investigating and dealing with bullying, the teacher will exercise his/her professional judgement to determine whether bullying has occurred and how best the situation might be resolved.
  • All reports, including anonymous reports of bullying must be investigated and dealt with by the relevant teacher. In that way pupils will gain confidence in ‘telling’. This confidence factor is of vital importance. It is made clear to all pupils that when they report incidents of bullying they are not considered to be telling tales but are behaving responsibly.
  • Non-teaching staff such as secretaries, special needs assistants (SNAs), bus escorts, caretakers, cleaners are encouraged to report any incidents of bullying behaviour witnessed by them, or mentioned to them, to the relevant teacher.
  • Parents and pupils are required to co-operate with any investigation and assist the school in resolving any issues and restoring, as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved as quickly as possible.
  • It is important that all parties involved understand the above approach from the onset.
  • Teachers take a calm, unemotional problem-solving approach when dealing with incidents of alleged bullying behaviour reported by pupils, staff or parents.
  • Incidents are generally best investigated outside the classroom situation to ensure the privacy of all involved.
  • All interviews are conducted with sensitivity and with due regard to the rights of all pupils concerned. Pupils who are not directly involved also provide very useful information in this way.
  • When analysing incidents of bullying behaviour, the relevant teacher seeks answers to questions of what, where, when, who and why. This is done in a calm manner, setting an example in dealing effectively with a conflict in a non-aggressive manner.
  • If a group is involved, each member is interviewed individually at first and thereafter, all those involved are met as a group. At the group meeting, each member is asked for his/her account of what happened to ensure that everyone in the group is clear about each other’s statement.
  • Each member of a group is supported through the possible pressures that may face them from the other members of the group after interview by the teacher.
  • It may also be appropriate or helpful sometimes to ask those involved to write down their account of the incident.
  • In cases where it has been determined by the relevant teacher that bullying behaviour has occurred, the parents of the parties involved are contacted at an early stage to inform them of the matter and to explain the actions being taken (by reference to the school policy). The school gives parents an opportunity of discussing ways in which they can reinforce or support the actions being taken by the school and the supports for their pupils.
  • Where the relevant teacher has determined that a pupil has been engaged in bullying behaviour, it is made clear to him/her how he/she is in breach of the school’s anti-bullying policy and efforts are made to try to get him/her to see the situation from the perspective of the pupil being bullied.
  • It is made clear to all involved (each set of pupils and parents) that in any situation where disciplinary sanctions are required, this is a private matter between the pupil being disciplined, his or her parents and the school.
  • Follow-up meetings with the relevant parties involved are arranged separately with a view to possibly bringing them together at a later date if the pupil who has been bullied is ready and agreeable. This can have a therapeutic effect.
  • In cases where the relevant teacher considers that the bullying behaviour has not been adequately and appropriately addressed within 20 school days after he/she has determined that bullying behaviour has occurred, it must be recorded by the relevant teacher on the ‘Form for recording bullying behaviour’.
  • In determining whether a bullying case has been adequately and appropriately addressed the relevant teacher must, as part of his/her professional judgement, take the following factors into account:
    • whether the bullying behaviour has ceased;
    • whether any issues between the parties have been resolved as far as is practicable;
    • whether the relationships between the parties have been restored as far as is practicable; and
    • has any feedback been received from the parties involved, their parents or the school Principal or Deputy Principal.
  • Where a parent is not satisfied that the school has dealt with a bullying case in accordance with these procedures, the parents must be referred, as appropriate, to the school’s complaints procedures.
  • In the event that a parent has exhausted the school’s complaints procedures and is still not satisfied, the school must advise the parents of their right to make a complaint to the Ombudsman for Children.

7. Procedures for recording bullying behaviour

  • Each relevant teacher has a hardback copy to record all reports of bullying
  • While all reports, including anonymous reports of bullying must be investigated and dealt with by the relevant teacher, the relevant teacher will use his/her professional judgement in relation to the records to be kept of these reports, the actions taken and any discussions with those involved regarding same.
  • If it is established by the relevant teacher that bullying has occurred, the relevant teacher must keep appropriate written records which will assist his/her efforts to resolve the issues and restore as far as is practicable, the relationships of the parties involved.
  • The relevant teacher must use the ‘Form for recording Bullying Behaviour’to record the bullying behaviour in the following circumstances:
    • in cases where he/she considers that the bullying behaviour has not been adequately and appropriately addressed within 20 school days after he/she has determined that bullying behaviour occurred
    • where the relevant teacher judges it important that the Principal or Deputy Principal be aware of the bullying behaviour, the bullying behaviour must be recorded and reported immediately to the Principal or Deputy Principal. The timeline for recording bullying behaviour in the ‘Form for recording Bullying Behaviour’ does not in any way preclude the relevant teacher from consulting the Principal or Deputy Principal at an earlier stage in relation to a case

8. Supports for pupils affected by bullying

The school’s programme of support for working with pupils affected by bullying is as follows:

  • A programme of support for pupils who have been bullied is in place in Gaelscoil Ultain. Such pupils may need counselling and/or opportunities to participate in activities designed to raise their self-esteem, to develop their friendship and social skills and thereby build resilience whenever this is needed. We adopt a method of shared concern. We use restorative practice, mediation or reconciliation where appropriate. We maintain open communications between school, parents and outside agencies. We work together to resolve the situation and protect the victim.
  • A programme of support for those pupils involved in bullying behaviour is also part of the school’s intervention process. Pupils involved in bullying behaviour need assistance on an ongoing basis. For those with low self-esteem, opportunities are developed to increase feelings of self-worth. Therefore we recognise that it is important that the learning strategies applied within the school allow for the enhancement of the pupil’s self-worth. Pupils who engage in bullying behaviour may need counselling to help them learn other ways of meeting their needs without violating the rights of others.

9. Referral of serious cases to the HSE

In relation to bullying in schools, Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 (Children First) and the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools provide that in situations where “the incident is serious and where the behaviour is regarded as potentially abusive, the school must consult the HSE Children and Family Social Services with a view to drawing up an appropriate response, such as a management plan”.

Serious instances of bullying behaviour are, in accordance with the Children First and the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools, referred to the HSE Children and Family Services and/or Gardaí as appropriate.

The Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools also provide that where school personnel have concerns about a child but are not sure whether to report the matter to the HSE, the Designated Liaison Person must seek advice from the HSE Children and Family Social Services.

10. Bullying as part of a continuum of behaviour

Bullying behaviour can be part of a continuum of behaviour rather than a stand-alone issue and in some cases behaviour may escalate beyond that which can be described as bullying to serious physical or sexual assault or harassment. To ensure that any such cases are dealt with appropriately, the school’s anti-bullying policy provides for appropriate linkages with the overall code of behaviour and referrals will be made to relevant external agencies and authorities where appropriate. In cases where we have serious concerns in relation to managing the behaviour of a pupil, the advice of the National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) will be sought.

11. Supervision and Monitoring of Pupils

The Board of Management confirms that appropriate supervision and monitoring policies and practices are in place to both prevent and deal with bullying behaviour and to facilitate early intervention where possible.

12. Prevention of Harassment

The Board of Management confirms that the school will, in accordance with its obligations under equality legislation, take all such steps that are reasonably practicable to prevent the sexual harassment of pupils or staff or the harassment of pupils or staff on any of the nine grounds specified i.e. gender including transgender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.

13. This policy has been made available to school personnel, published on the school website and provided to the Parents’ Association. A copy of this policy will be made available to the Department and the patron if requested.

14. This policy and its implementation will be reviewed by the Board of Management once in every school year. Written notification that the review has been completed will be made available to school personnel, published on the school website and provided to the Parents’ Association. A record of the review and its outcome will be made available, if requested, to the patron and the Department.

This policy was adopted by the Gaelscoil Ultain Board of Management on 21-03-14

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