Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Thursday, January 05, 2006
There's blame to go round on this one. Yesterday's Education Guardian reports that
Council chiefs admitted today they were considering dropping a controversial policy of not blaming bullies in schools for their actions - following a scathing attack by the prime minister.
Teachers in Bristol had been advised not to "punish or humiliate" bullies in certain cases under the city council's "no blame" approach to the problem.

But the policy attracted fierce criticism from Tony Blair, who said it was an "extraordinary thing" for the Liberal Democrat-run council to advocate.

"I profoundly disagree with the decision that council has taken: bullying should be punished; children who bully must be made to understand the harm they have been doing," he told the Commons in November.

It's a poor lookout for the country when the national leader sticks his nose into the doings of city councils, and a worse one when they change their policies for fear of him. Nonetheless if one can think of it as Anthony Blair Esq. making the argument rather than the Prime Minister, Anthony Blair Esq. is quite right.

The city council revealed today that it was "reviewing" its no blame bullying policy after it was dropped from Department for Education and Skills' guidelines in December.

A council spokeswoman denied the education officials had performed a u-turn, but admitted that in light of the government's current position and the criticism the policy had attracted it was now being looked at again.

Ah, a "no blame" approach to one's own screwups.
The "no blame" approach, which was widely adopted in schools in the late 1990s, originated in Bristol as an alternative to directly punishing bullies.
As an alternative to teachers doing the job they are paid for, more like. Understandably few people enjoy the task of sorting out an alleged case of bullying. Where accounts conflict it can be difficult to know if bullying has truly taken place, or to know if just one or both sides are to blame - or even to ascertain (rather than assume) that it was all a misunderstanding and no one is to blame. It can even be frightening. Tough. That's what the "professional responsibility" teachers are always saying they should be admired and renumerated for entails.

Instead it encouraged the bully to discuss with their classmates the root cause of their behaviour and to find a way forward with the help of a teacher.

But the policy was attacked by Labour MP Dan Morris when it was again advocated in a guidance booklet, launched by the council during anti-bullying week in November.

Good for Dan Morris. What I always wonder about teachers and education bureaucrats who advocate a "no blame" approach to those who bully children is whether they also advocate it in cases of workplace bullying of teachers and cvil servants by their superiors. If so, I hope they have told their union reps.
The MP for Wansdyke described it as "dangerous" and "reckless" and said it did nothing to get the bullies to change their behaviour.

The schools minister Jacqui Smith joined in the criticism of the approach last month and announced a review to clarify the department's guidelines.

The executive member for children's services at Bristol city council, Jos Clark, said today that "no blame" had only ever been one of several approaches the council took to bullying. "We are reviewing our anti-bullying guidance to ensure it is as comprehensive and useful as possible to schools," she said.

How, exactly, can you have "no blame" as one of several approaches? Were the bullies blamed and not blamed on alternate days?

"Our aim has always been to have a practical and balanced approach that helps schools resolve problems and reduces or eradicates bullying by offering a wide range of advice and information so schools can develop their own approaches.
"Wide range of advice" is open to the same objection as above. I guess that on Fridays the council tells 'em to kill the bullies, just for variety.
"We have always been led by central government's anti-bullying guidelines, which, until very recently, contained references to the "no blame" approach.
A fair point. But I think that Bristol city council should not blame the government, but rather strive to identify the root causes of their behaviour.
"The schools minister has now announced a review of the DfES guidelines to clarify that the government does not think councils should recommend this approach to headteachers and we continue to follow their advice."

She added: "Together with the schools, we are determined to deliver real improvements and not to make the children of Bristol a political football."

Translation: please don't bully us, Mr Politician.

She said the council would now begin consulting with parents, teachers and pupils over its anti-bullying policy.
And the bullies. You forgot the bullies.