This week [November 15-19] is the third week of November, and therefore marks the 2021 edition of Anti-Bullying Week.
Anti-Bullying Week is an annual UK event coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance [ABA] in England and Wales and the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum [the ABA’s sister organisation] in Northern Ireland. It is held in the third week of November. It seeks to raise awareness of the bullying of children and young people, both in school and in other settings, and to highlight means of preventing and responding to it.
It will be the nineteenth year that Anti-Bullying Week has taken place, after starting in 2002 and going on to become a significant event in the school calendar.
Every year, the ABA works with hundreds of young people to develop a theme for the campaign week, with this year’s being ‘One Kind Word’, in recognition of the importance of kindness in the aftermath of the many months of isolation due to Covid restrictions.
The ABA has said that this year’s Anti-Bullying Week will aim to show how even the smallest acts of consideration can break down barriers and brighten the lives of others.
It is also set to be the biggest Anti-Bullying Week ever, building on the success of the 2020 campaign ‘United Against Bullying’ which saw participation from 80 per cent of schools, meaning that its message reached more than 7.5 million children and young people.
Speaking about how his school has aimed to raise awareness of bullying, Andrew Simpson, headteacher of Arundel Church of England Primary School, highlighted how his staff had used stories as powerful tools to engage youngsters on the topic of bullying and instigate positive change.
Simpson said: “Sadly, many pupils will have experienced bullying and be all too familiar with what it feels like to be bullied. Bullying comes in many different forms, including mental, physical and emotional. It could be as simple as ignoring someone in the class just because everybody else does, posting mean comments about someone online, or sharing a joke at someone else's expense.
“I personally feel when we tackle such issues with children, we must always use stories so children can develop their empathy towards others. Christians often ask themselves ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ to decide how they should treat others, and in school during Anti-bullying Week we used our worship time to look at an incident from the life of Jesus that shows just that – how Jesus treated an individual whom everyone hated: Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector.”
In the Gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus was a tax collector despised by many around him. As Jesus was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem, Zacchaeus was keen to see him. However, given his short stature, Zacchaeus could not see Jesus from the ground and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to be able to spot him.
Spotting Zacchaeus in the tree, Jesus addressed him by name and asked him to come down, stating that he intended to visit his home, to the surprise of the crowd around them.
Simpson added: “The children at our school explored this story using ‘wondering’ questions. We asked them to wonder about who the bullies might be in this story, why people hated Zacchaeus and treated him as they did, and whether they were right to do so.
“Finally, the children were asked about how it feels to be the one who is alone, how it feels to be part of the crowd, and about what Jesus did to change that situation for Zacchaeus, and how we can similarly reach out to others.”
Simpson believes that stories such as that of Zacchaeus and Jesus in the Bible can be used to engage children on bullying and bring the subject to life, and schools can use such stories to increase understanding and promote positive anti-bullying messages.
“Using stories to explore bullying with children brings the subject alive,” he said. “I would urge Church of England Schools - and in fact all types of schools - to use this story to explore the feeling of being mistreated by others.”
Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash