The incidence of bullying in schools in Barbados appears to be on the decline.
That was the suggestion today from education officer and focal point for the Schools’ Positive Behaviour Management Programme (SPBMP), Janice Reid.
“I can say we haven’t had many reports reaching us as yet; so we can say that something is happening. We can’t tell you what numbers are as yet, because it’s a process . . . so we have to monitor it and see what’s going on,” Reid told reporters on the sidelines of an Effective Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) review and planning meeting at Blue Horizon Hotel at Rockley, Christ Church, this morning.
Of CFS efforts in schools, she said: “We have continuous training . . . . We are going to have student leadership as active bystanders. We know that bullies get the power basically from those around; so we are going to focus on students who might be around [laughing and spurring on]; we want to focus on those bystanders.”
The education officer noted that those students would also be trained to speak up when they saw any signs of bullying.
But bullying is just one of the areas of concern which the joint Ministry of Education-UNICEF-sponsored meeting would be examining, as part of the meeting here.
Having signed on to the convention to practise the CFS initiative, Barbados has embraced the principles governing the programme with its focus on health and family life education, the behaviour principles, and how to implement positive behaviour strategies at schools.
“We are also doing parental involvement. So we are involving the PTAs [Parent-Teacher Associations] and student leadership. We are encouraging schools to have . . . the student councils and we are doing some sessions with students on leadership and we are trying to teach them things basically about how to be an active bystander, so that we could cut down on the troubling thing we have with bullying,” said Senior Education Officer for Nursery and Primary Schools Joy Adamson.
She noted that if a classroom was controlled and children were behaving well and participating, the academic achievements would go hand in hand.
“That is one of the main reasons we have signed on to the whole principle of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative,” asserted the senior education officer.
Asked to report progress on where Barbados had reached in creating more positive behaviours in schools, Reid said great strides had been made.
“We have our primary schools, nursery and secondary schools on board. We have about 31 per cent of the secondary schools, but we could say we have a 100 per cent of our nursery and primary schools,” she said.
“What we have done is that we have trained the teachers, principals, parent volunteers and parents.”
Reid explained that as part of the SPBMP practices, the programme had been encouraging alternatives to corporal punishment; how to have a family life education programme; how to be tolerant; and how to resolve conflict in the right way.
“Currently we have in the works a booklet on alternatives to corporal punishment; we are going to be looking at that and see how we can get those things into the schools,” Reid told reporters.
She identified some alternatives to corporal punishment such as time-outs, behavioural contracts and anecdotal records.
“We have a booklet on that and very soon we will be launching that,” Reid said.
Reid said feedback from parents and school principals had provided the ministry with data which showed the positive behaviour programme was working.
“We’ve had the parents say that something is happening at their schools . . . and we had some schools give a home matrix so we could actually have these concepts at school replicated at home. We’ve also had the principals telling us, ‘Hey, we don’t have to use the strap much; we have these things in place; we speak to the children; we respect them; they respect us’,” the official reported.
The meeting concludes tomorrow with the formulation of a common framework policy document for all Caribbean countries to adopt and follow with respect to the Child-Friendly Schools programme.