Sunday 3 November 2013

Creative ways to deal with bullying

I am a peer mentor and currently work with young people who have housing, violence and other issues to deal with in their daily lives. I am their to support, listen and help where I can. I am also a poet and film-maker I have worked with Actionwork many times helping young people deal with issues of bullying. I find that using various forms of creativity to be the most effective and rewarding of the approaches I have come across. Please see below for a few examples.

8 creative ways to deal with bullying

Whether you’re a bully, bullied or a bystander everyone experiences bullying in one form or another. There are many ways to approach bullying, but today I’m going to focus on what you can do if you’re being bullied.

1) Join a club  / take up a hobby outside school
- Being active releases endorphins which are a natural chemical that makes you feel happy
- You’ll create a network of people around you who can support you, you may even make friends with similar interests
- You’ll learn something new, whether it’s a skill, talent or developing an interest
- It’ll boost your self esteem – this will show and you’ll appear more confident
- It gives you something to look forward to
- Its an opportunity for you to find out what you like and what you don’t. You don’t have to stick with the first club you join, you can try out a whole load of different things

2) Join a club / society in school
It might sound like the last thing you want to do. But it will give you the opportunity to meet more people in your school or at work.  If there’s no clubs then why not set one up? This will introduce you to some like minded people in your school something fun you can do with your time.

3) Contribute to your schools anti-bullying policy
It’s a legal requirement for schools to have an anti-bullying policy. If they don’t have one, work with your school to create one. If they do have one, you can make sure it’s being implemented and help to improve it.

4) Set up a buddy scheme

5) Workshops
Get some external groups to come in and run some anti-bulling and empowerment workshops in your school. This will give you the opportunity to talk to someone if you need to and explore different ways of tackling bullying and promote a zero tolerance attitude to bullying. It might even get the bullies thinking about their behaviour and how it affects other people.

6) Campaign
Set up a campaign within your school and other schools to make anti-bullying training a core part of teacher training. It will give your teachers the tools and knowledge to help you.

7) Advice service
Set up an online anonymous advice system where people can give and ask advice on bullying. You can make it password protected so people have to sign up (for extra safety).

8) Events
Get parents, teachers and students involved in regular events – it could be to fundraise, parents evenings etc. Allow for a section on discussing tackling bullying. You could even suggest an award / points system for implementing and improving the policy. Not only will this promote a positive attitude it will bring parents, students and teachers closer creating a trusting environment where you can all work together.

Sophie Chei - follow me on Twitter  

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Anti Bullying Information and Advice

Here is a copy of the QandA session our Director did with thr BABA Blog for Anti Bullying Month.
Q&A: Dr Andy Hickson on Anti-Bullying



Q1) What are the triggers that cause bullying to start?

A) Bullying has many triggers both for the bully and the person getting bullied. In terms of the person getting bullied it often starts when notable differences or weaknesses are perceived. Bullies tend to pick up on these. So if people are lonely, without a friendship group, stand out in any way, depressed or similar, their already low self-esteem and lack of confidence may be compounded by being bullied. It should also be pointed out that anybody has the potential to get bullied and anyone has the potential to be a bully.


Q2) What are the different forms of bulling?

A) The main forms of bullying are physical (hitting, kicking, spitting etc), emotional (name calling, excluding etc), relational (hurting someones reputation, bad rumours etc) and cyber (bullying through the use of technology such as mobile phones and through social networks).


Q3) What are the signs to watch out for, changes in my child’s behaviour, etc?

A) There are many signs to watch out for, but be aware that these very same signs could indicate other things than bullying. Signs include: being frightened of walking to and from school, not wanting to go on the school bus or not wanting you to go on the school bus with them, they may beg you to drive them to school, feeling ill in the mornings or late at night, begin truanting, start doing badly in their school work, have their school clothes or books destroyed, come home hungry (because the bully as taken their dinner money), become withdrawn, start stammering, lack confidence, become depressed and anxious, stop eating, they may attempt or threaten suicide, cry themselves to sleep, have regular nightmares and not want to sleep in their own bed, have their stuff go missing, ask for money or start stealing (to give to the bully), refuse to talk about what's wrong with them, have unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, start to bully other children, brothers or sisters , become aggressive and unreasonable, and more. Look out for excuses for any of the aforementioned too.


Q4) Does age make a difference and are there different forms of bullying for girls and boys?

A) People can get bullied at any age. Adults get bullied too. All forms of bullying can be done by both boys and girls. It has been suggested that girls use more relational types of bullying and boys more physical at times.


Q5) What should my child do to stop the bully? How should they respond to the bully?

A) There is no one quick fix, no one magical solution to deal with bullying. We need to find what will work for us. As a first step for those low on confidence, they might want to try activities to raise their self esteem and confidence such as working on open body language, take up a sport or martial art, find ways for them to feel good about themselves.


Q6) What can parents of young children do about school bullying? 

A) Demonstrate through their own behaviour positive relationships. Listen and talk to their child, take their concerns seriously. Ask them what it is they would like done rather than charging in with their own ideas. Be aware that their child has the possibility to be a bully as well as someone who gets bullied. Keep an open dialogue with the school and their child’s teachers. Never stay quiet about bullying.


Q7) What can parents of teens do about school bullying?

See answer to question 6.


Q8) If I suspect my child is bullying others, what should I do?

See answer to question 6. Find out the truth, be honest with child and self. If they are bullying others, then find out why, are they masking some other inadequacy? Are they bullying because they are getting bullied? It’s very rare for parents to report to the school that they suspect their child of being a bully … be that first parent. Seek help – don’t try and deal with it all yourself, on your own.


Q9) What can I do as a parent to promote safe use of the internet, and minimise the risk of my child being bullied online?

Educate yourself about safe internet use s well as your child. Make sure you know as much as your child does about social networks etc. Do not let children have access to the internet in their bedrooms. Have a communal internet PC/Mac in a space where everyone can see what is going on.


Q10) What’s the most common question you’re asked by parents?

A) How can I stop my child from getting bullied.


Dr Andy Hickson

Director of Actionwork


Tuesday 31 July 2012

How to complain to schools in England

Typical complaints procedure if you want to make a complaint to a school in England.

The school has approximately 1,400 pupils on roll and 150-160 staff. The head teacher set in place a new complaints procedure upon taking-up post, which was based on previous experiences of handling complaints. The procedure is publicised in the annual parent handbook, and aims to provide an open opportunity for parents to express complaints or concerns of any kind, which are signposted accordingly.

There are three main stages, as follows:

Stage One: Initial acknowledgement of the concern or complaint - at this stage, the parent is encouraged to speak to the member of staff concerned e.g. class teacher or form tutor, to resolve the matter informally if possible.

Stage Two: Consideration by the head teacher– if the matter is still not resolved, the parent is asked to put it in writing to the head teacher, who exercises their discretion. Concerns are still taken seriously, but are delegated to line managers such as Heads of Year to address in the first instance. Complaints are assigned an investigating officer, who is always a member of the senior leadership team. The parent is informed in writing and the complaint is progressed through meetings, written and telephone contact as appropriate.

Stage Three - Consideration by the chair of governors – if the parent wishes to protest the school's decision, they can write to the chair, who will review how the complaint has been investigated, and whether the judgement is reasonable. The complainant is informed of the outcome. Unless the chair finds that the school acted unreasonably, the complaint is closed. The parent is signposted to the Secretary of State if they wish to pursue this route.

The school is quite large, and causes for concern are raised on a fairly regular basis. However, only 3 to 5 complaints are received each year that reach the stage of formal investigation. The head teacher felt that the transparency of the procedure, the ethos of the school in addressing and the immediate acknowledgement of all complaints were factors in maintaining a low number reaching formal stages.

There was some variation between different types of school in the chains of contact used to resolve complaints informally. Stakeholders reported that secondary schools had more staff levels to go through, which provided more chances for the issue to be resolved. For example:

In a typical secondary school parents can contact tutors, heads of year, the pastoral team, assistant head or senior management team representative and then the head teacher.

The typical size of primary schools, nurseries or special schools meant the chain was shorter, but stakeholders reported that the school was more likely to operate an ‘open door policy’ where parents were more encouraged to discuss any issues with teachers or senior staff. This approach was more likely to be facilitated by closer parent-school relationships and the greater contact parents have with schools.

In the main, informal face to face or telephone discussions were the main mechanism for informal concerns to be raised. There were exceptional examples, however, of an opportunity being given to parents to raise concerns through written communications, for example through home-school communication books.

Source: Parents and Young people’s Complaints about School (DFE) by Katherine KcKenna and laurie Day 2010

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Theatre in Poland

Went to see 'Spanish Fascination' in Lodz, Poland. What a fantatic evening. For under £10 I got 3-hours of top opera, ballet, contemporary dance, spanish dance, virtuoso violinist, solo spanish guitar and a whole host of amazing performances.

Friday 27 April 2012

Should theatre companies be charities #awqt

We are now starting a question time session. If you have a question about theatre in education (TIE), film in education, theatre in general, dealing with bullying or anything else you want to ask us (we will answer questions on anything), then please ask away. All questions will be answered. Ask your question by replying to his blog post or send us a question on twitter: @touringschools with the hashtag #awqt Your questions and the answers will be available for everyone to see.
Question from Rose (via Twitter):

What advice would you give to someone wishing to establish an education/community theatre company RE charity stat/fund etc? thnx, Rose

Answer: Hi Rose and thanks for your question. It's a very large question, but I will keep my answer brief. As you know, it is very difficult, especially in the current economic climate, to effectively sustain a theatre company financially. Funding pots are diminishing and many people are going after the same funds. I suggest that if you go down the charity/funding route that you must have a dedicated funding/promotion manager (they won't have time for anything else). You will also need to demonstrate a good track record of work and positive feedback. It can be an all-consuming affair and much like the audition process for actors - you need to be able to take rejection well and be persistent. I do not like the funding application process as I feel it wastes valuable time and resources. I prefer to rely on donations and fee based activity and actually spending time doing the work itself.

As regards being a charity, you need to decide why you are doing the work. Is it really charitable or do you just want the status? A charity is more work to set up - don't do it if you don't need it.

Based on the above I would suggest that, just starting out, time is better spent on producing a creative product that people are happy to pay for and actually spend time doing the work rather than rely on fundraising before you can do the work. Once you have toured/performed and can demonsrate a track record, use this to approach funders. You then have 'showcases' they can attend plus you get to do what you want to do (which is perform), when you want to, how you want to and to who you want to.

I hope the above is useful. Please let me know if you want me to clarify anything.

Thanks for your question.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Actionwork Question Time #awqt

We are now starting a question time session. If you have a question about theatre in education (TIE), film in education, theatre in general, dealing with bullying or anything else you want to ask us (we will answer questions on anything), then please ask away. All questions will be answered.

Ask your question by replying to his blog post or send us a question on twitter: @touringschools with the hashtag #awqt

Your questions and the answers will be available for everyone to see.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Theatre in other langauges

One of my passions, when writing plays, is to combine more than one language in the script. Most of my plays, even the English ones, contain a few phrases of other languages. One of my more challenging plays used a combination English and Japanese. The show was 2-hours long, half the show was in English and half the show was in Japanese. Before writing the script I worked with 3 English and 3 Japanese actors for a month. We shared common cultural elements and common words (for example hundreds of Japanese words that have been adopted into the English language such as tsunami, kabuki, origami, kimono, miso, nashi, sake, soy, tempura, akido, judo, zen, futon, honcho, shiatsu and many others). I led the actors through many exploratory games and improvisations and at the end of the month I wrote the play; a love story about a Japanese girl and a Phillipino boy. The show explored many issues including racism and bullying. I worked with a Japanesw writer for an additional month, helping me with the Japanese script and language. We ended up with a play that was in both English and Japanese - some of the characters could only speak English, some only Japanese and some could speak both languages. We then toured this show or 2-months in England and 2-months in Japan. This was a fantastic project and really well received in both countries in schools, arts centres and theatres. It premiered at Sadlers Wells in London England and in the Kanagawa Theatre Complex, Tokyo Japan.

One of my lasting memories of this tour was a typical response I got from English students and teachers compared to Japanese students and teachers. Many English teachers/students complained about the Japanese language and wanted the play to be in English only whereas ALL the Japanese students/teachers loved the combination. Many of the English students/teachers would say things like "I could only understand half the play, you should have made it all in English". Many of the Japanese students/teachers would say "Mixing the languages made us think more about other ways of communicating".

I was thinking about this as I am about to go to Poland and I want to see some theatre there. Lodz has several theatres and there appears to be a theatre festival while I am there, which is great. Everything is in Polish, which is great (I don't speak Polish). Three theatres that took my eye are the Great Theatre ( currently open but undergoing some renovation, the Jaracz Theatre ( and the New Theatre ( The choice of shows ranges from Tolstoy, Madadme Butterfly, Krol Ryszard III (Shakespeare's Richard III), ZIEMIA OBIECANA, Mayday 2, The Polish Dance Theatre and Syvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant perfrming 4 of their pieces (Shift, Solo, Two and Push -, which looks fantastic, but unfortunately I arrive just to late to see this one. So I have opted for a show called 'HISZPAƃSKIE FASCYNACJE', which translates as 'Spanish Fascination'. Google translate offers this: The show is inspired by the Spanish culture in music opera, ballet and rich literature of songs. In addition to fragments of the more famous works of composers such as Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, and Verdi Minkus, there will be some songs less popular but equally beautiful and original, whose authors include Manuel de Falla, Jose Serrano, Pablo Luna and Edouard Lalo. The intention of the implementers of the latest release is to show how great source of inspiration for composers from different eras and cultures were the motives of Iberian, and how great is the richness of their interpretation.

Now that sounds brilliant! I will let you know what it is like after I have seen it.If you are interested to see pictures from the show and a cast list then please follow this link:

I believe we really need to encourage peopel to see and experience the arts in many different languages and from many different cultures. Lets not forget that we are celebrating Shakespeare at the moment and there are hundreds of Shakespeare performances going on all over the UK right now.