ABA - All Together: A digital approach to reducing bullying of pupils with SEND
After an academic year like none in recent memory, it seems strange to think in terms we once did: July is upon us; soon the summer holidays will begin; we look ahead to September and a new school year. All those points in the calendar we normally live by have become more fluid and uncertain. Nevertheless, we do our best to plan – use the guidance we are given, and the knowledge and data we have to try to prepare and ensure that we are doing our best to meet the needs of children and young people.
At ABA, we know that certain kinds of bullying have lessened during lockdown. Naturally, face-to-face bullying has been less of a concern, but other types – online bullying, sibling bullying – come to the fore. And we worry about what happens when children return to school. Will their resilience be weakened; will their mental health be at risk? How will this affect behaviour?
Like everyone else, we do our best to prepare, based on our experience and our research. It just so happens that as lockdown began, Professor Peter Smith and colleagues from University of London, Goldsmiths published the interim evaluation of our All Together anti-bullying programme.
All Together is an online programme that has a particular focus on reducing bullying of disabled with SEND. It uses a mix of training, tools and resources to support schools to develop their whole-school approach to anti-bullying. It encourages schools to use self-assessment tools and pupil surveys to uncover areas of strength and weakness. Then it gives a framework of support to make incremental changes. It has reached tens of thousands of pupils and professionals in schools or the wider children’s workforce.
As all of our lives moved online, we were particularly interested to see the evaluation of a programme that had operated in this space for several years. If an online programme can yield good results for children and young people, then it has particular value as we move ahead.
The results from the evaluation are very positive. Data from hundreds of schools was analysed, along with surveys from 28,000 pupils at the start of the programme and over 11,000 at the end. This showed:
· Bullying reduced, whether that was the experience of being bullied or pupils bullying others. The biggest reduction in bullying was reported by pupils with SEND.
· After the programme, pupils’ wellbeing improved. Those involved in bullying were less likely to report having negative thoughts and feelings. Again, the biggest improvement was for pupils with SEND.
· Pupils reported feeling more positive about school compared to before. Pupils with SEND saw the biggest improvement in reporting that other pupils liked them and that they felt safe in their school.
· School leads and other professionals reported sustained knowledge and confidence in preventing and responding to bullying, several months after using our training courses.
There are two main takeaways from the programme. One is the success that data shows us: at the start of the programme the experience of pupils with SEND was significantly worse than their non-disabled peers and those with a special educational need. By the end of the programme, this difference had disappeared and their experiences were on a par.
The other real value we’ve seen is that schools often don’t see that there is an issue around inclusion or of bullying of pupils with SEND until they see the results from their pupil surveys. It shines a spotlight that might not otherwise be there. As one school said:
“It showed us that we needed a huge focus on prevention and awareness around name-calling and negative language. We also realised we needed to put even more energy into supporting children with SEND and helping children cope with difficult feelings like anger and anxiety.”
We feel fortunate to have a digital approach in place that has shown such success. With all the uncertainty that lies ahead, we want to do all we can to support schools to cope. We have seen the appetite for access to an online tool – the number of people accessing All Together resources increased tenfold in lockdown. We are pleased that so many schools are using this time to think about their anti-bullying work and ensure staff are able to meet the needs of all their pupils. This is going to be important over the coming months and, thankfully, many schools are prepared.
For further information on the programme and the evaluation: