Bullying can have a profound effect on a child’s life. I know that being somehow different exposes children to being singled out and vulnerable to being picked on. That could be their looks such as hair colour, skin colour, body shape or, as in my case, whether they were from a different ethnicity.
As a child refugee, I often was the only non-native in the class, sometimes even the whole school. Some children befriended me out of interest in my background, but sadly some preferred to use my ‘otherness’ to bully me.
My first personal experience of bullying was at age nine when on the way home from school a girl used to take my cap or gloves and either throw them into a bin or a puddle. The reason I found that so upsetting was that we were very poor and I didn’t have many clothes. This was a very cold and wet winter and I needed my gloves and cap for the long walk to and from school.
Anti bullying projects
One day, I decided enough was enough. I was stronger than the girl attacking me, so I simply held her arms down to stop her getting to my clothes. This made her very angry and she shouted at me, saying that she would tell her grandfather. She added that he was the mayor of the small town, and she would tell him that I had attacked her. She was sure that my family would be thrown out of town as we were dirty refugees who had no place there anyway.
I ran home crying and telling my Mum that we had to leave town and it was my fault. My Mum went to speak to my teacher and the girl had to apologise to me. She was made to promise to stop bullying me. The fact that I even now, after 60 years, still remember the incident shows how deeply it had affected me.
Bullying is experienced by 72% of children
This week is anti-bullying week and Nationwide is working with The Diana Award with the aim to help stamp out bullying. They have two projects to address the issue affecting so many children.
“Bullying is something that sadly most people experience at some point in their life. Almost three out of four children (72%) who have been victims of bullying experienced at least some of it at school or during school time.”
The Diana Award
The Diana Award run a project which aims to provide resources and support for people who are experiencing bullying behaviour. It is a resource centre developed by the charity founded in the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales. She believed that it is young people who have the power to change the world.
One of the projects by The Diana Award trains Anti bullying Ambassadors nationwide to tackle bullying behaviour online and offline. The training sessions are for all those who want to support someone who is experiencing bullying behaviour. It could be students or professionals, ie people who are passionate about creating an anti-bullying culture and communities of kindness can become Anti bullying Ambassadors.
Bullying in the South East
Statistics in the South East conducted by Nationwide found that:
- 77% of children in the South East have experienced bullying, with all saying it was ongoing, and 85% stating there had been multiple incidents of bullying.
- 90% of children in the South East stated the bullying happened at school, with a further 26% taking place online.
- 48% of children in the South East said the bullying was due to their appearance.
In order to address the culture of bullying, The Diana Award believes it is important to develop confidence and specific skills to challenge different situations. HRH The Duke of Cambridge supports The Diana Award to engage young people, parents and adults to change the attitudes, the behaviour and the culture of bullying. They have trained over 50,000 young people across the UK to lead on anti-bullying campaigns in their schools.
In a recent Nationwide Building Society survey, it was found that 71% of the UK feel that levels of respect in society have declined in the last few years. To thrive as human beings, we have to learn to treat each other as equals. Mutual respect is about caring for one another. This is what inspired Nationwide Building Society to work with other organisations, like The Diana Award committed to creating a more caring and mutually respectful society. The question was how to go about teaching mutual respect.
Other research by Nationwide Building Society and The Diana Award found that 31% of children in the South East have never written a letter, with a similar amount of 30% having never received one either. However, the same survey concluded that over 4 in 5 (86%) children in the South East would be very excited to receive a letter in the post!
You’ve got mail
Deputy CEO of The Diana Awards, Alex Holmes added: “Simple written messages of kindness are a great way to tackle bullying as they can have a really positive impact on both the sender and receiver and it’s clear from our research that this will resonate well with children. At The Diana Award, we’re passionate about tackling bullying behaviour by empowering young people to make change. We’re looking forward to seeing young people across the county putting pen to paper and sending their messages.”
Therefore, The Diana Award and Nationwide started a new pen pal campaign. Around 120,000 children from 300 schools across the UK (of which 53 schools are from the South East) have already signed up to take part. Children are busy writing letters with positive messages and filled with kindness. In January 2023, there will be an exchange with other school children.
Anti bullying ambassador Molly Rainford says: “I’m delighted to take part in a campaign like this and I wish when I was in school there was a project like this to spread positivity. Getting the chance to write my own letter was really rewarding, it’s been years since I wrote a letter but I will be definitely picking up a pen more often and getting creative. I think it’s really important that these campaigns exist to encourage children to speak up, write down their feelings and also show their creativity. I hope the Positive Post Box is going to help loads of children across the country.”
Plans for the future
Alongside the Positive Post Boxes, Nationwide with The Diana Award plan over the next three years to train another 10,000 Anti-Bullying Ambassadors in over 660 primary schools across the country. It is hoped that through this initiative, schoolchildren will develop key skills around tackling bullying, celebrating difference and supporting their peers, online and offline.
If you would like resources to start getting involved and to help support you with this project, please contact.