Developing anti-bullying cultures in primary schools: what can head teachers do to ensure successful anti-bullying cultures?

Brewer, Lesley (2018) Developing anti-bullying cultures in primary schools: what can head teachers do to ensure successful anti-bullying cultures? PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Bullying in schools is a widespread problem, attracting a great deal of interest and publicity in recent years. The negative impacts of bullying can have consequences for not just the victims, but also for the school, perpetrators and wider community members. Such consequences can be experienced instantaneously and/or at a subsequent time, often in later life.

In recent years bullying has unquestionably moved into the spotlight as researchers and governments have investigated the phenomenon in greater depth. However, according to the NSPCC, it remains the top problem for children aged 11 and under contacting them and was the single biggest reason for boys calling CHILDLINE in 2015/16 (NSPCC, 2016).

Bullying in primary school is, thus, of critical concern to educational policy makers and school leaders alike. Research would suggest that some schools experience more bullying incidents than others and that schools vary widely in both their approaches to and successes in dealing with the issue.

Initiatives and approaches to bullying enter schools that serve particular communities, with particular experiences, individuals and histories, making them site specific. They are mediated by the practices of school leaders and are executed by staff with diverse levels of confidence, commitment and capacity. There is, thus, always variation in the ways in which practices are taken up. Even where schools profess to enact the same approaches they often meet with widely ranging outcomes for anti-bullying, as was evidenced through this investigation. This research, therefore, set out to understand what it is that more successful schools do in initiating and managing anti-bullying practices. It investigates the less frequently examined area of the effects of head teacher practices on the success of anti-bullying cultures.

Set in the contexts of five diverse primary school settings, this thesis scrutinizes the approaches of head teachers as they facilitate and cultivate practices that enable or constrain anti-bullying cultures. It utilizes a mixed methods approach, where questionnaires, observations and semi-structured interviews and focus groups enable the voices and experiences of school community members to be heard. To facilitate this the methodological approach began as one that combined the lenses of Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological model (1979) and Lave and Wenger’s Communities of Practice (1991). However, it evolved to look beyond the latter and to incorporate the work of Kemmis and Grootenboer’s Practice Architectures which champions a dual purpose of education: to help people live well in a world worth living in (Kemmis and Gootenboer, 2008), suggesting a social justice approach to this research. This is an aspect that, until recently, was generally omitted in the discourses surrounding the nature, efficiency and sustainability of developing anti-bullying cultures’ in primary schools.

I show that, in successful anti-bullying schools, although policy and targeted intervention are vital for providing focus and understanding, there is a culture of respect, care and collaboration that pervades the sayings, doings and relatings at every level. I argue that head teachers, in shaping the cultures of their schools, are fundamental to these aspects as they maneuver the intersubjective spaces of practice architectures (Kemmis and Gootenboer, 2008). This research reinforces the need for head teachers to build upon existing practices, taking account of the histories and social and political actualities of their schools. It suggests that, taking account of these, the perceptions of players within the field may be as important as the actuality of situated practices as they unfold.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Thomson, Pat L.
Sellman, Edward
Keywords: Bullying in schools, Prevention; School principals, Attitudes
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 51559
Depositing User: Brewer, Lesley
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2018 04:40
Last Modified: 08 May 2020 08:02

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