Earlier this summer, Bob Smith, Regional Coordinator of the London Safeguarding Forum, traveled to Dublin for the second World Anti-Bullying Forum Conference.

Lee was selected to present a poster exhibit showcasing the journey of the Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (UK) 2016, under the title ‘Building Cross-Sector Bridges in the Development of Anti-Bullying Legislation, Policy and Practice in Northern Ireland’. The poster highlighted the 6-year process, from the raising of concerns relating to anti-bullying practices in schools in Northern Ireland, through lobbying and campaigning activities, the legislative passage of the Bill, to the passing of the legislation and the development of statutory guidance on its implementation.

The conference, held in the Helix Building of Dublin City University, brought together global experts from around the world, along with hundreds of conference delegates, to explore the key issues relating to the world of bullying prevention in 2019.

Lee attend a panel discussion involving some of the world-leading researchers in the field of bullying and prevention of bullying, including:

CHRISTINA SALMIVALLI, PhD,a Professor of Psychology at the University of Turku, Finland.

HELLEY HYMEL, who holds the Edith Lando Professorship in Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

DORTE MARIE SØNDERGAARD, D.phil., Professor in Social Psychology at the School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark.

MICHAEL KYOBE, PhD is a Professor of Information Systems and Deputy Dean for research & Internationalization in the Commerce faculty at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

RENÉ VEENSTRA, Professor of Sociology, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

CHRISTIAN BERGER, PhD, Associate Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

SUSAN SWEARER, PhD, who is the Willa Cather Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. USA.

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, PhD, who is the former Dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, USA.

SHOKO YONEYAMA, PhD, Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, University of Adelaide, Australia.

During this discussion, participants raised a number of key issues around our ongoing attempts to develop a better understanding of the nature, extent and impact of bullying behaviour in schools and communities around the world. The session also considered various approaches to preventing bullying and the measures of success in different societies. Interestingly, the panel discussed the different between reducing levels of bullying behaviour in terms of numbers in incidents or cases, and reducing the severity of bullying behaviour on individual children and young people. It was suggested that, where there are fewer incidents, the impact may be greater.

Over the course of three days, Lee attended a number of workshops, presentations and seminars. These included:

  • Communicating with Parents After an Incident of Bullying ~ Frank DiLallo (USA)
  • Bullying in Schools and Online: Research Approaches from Europe and Africa ~ Dorte Marie Soendergaard (Denmark) & Michael Kyobe (South Africa)
  • Teacher’s Perceptions and management strategies towards cyberbullying ~ Peter Macaulay (UK)
  • Sensation Seeking promotes traditional and cyberbullying differently ~ Daniel Graf (Austria)
  • Social networks and social and moral competence: a new challenge in bullying prevention ~ Eva Romera (Spain) & Rene Veenstra (Netherlands)
  • The Red Balloon Learner Centre ~ Peter Smith (UK)
  • Analysis of the (mis)recognition of racism in three Irish primary schools ~ Anne Marie Kavanagh (Ireland)
  • Explaining Bullying Climates in Classrooms: The role of the student body composition, relationships and instructional quality ~ Lars Dietrich (Germany)
  • Ploy-victimisation of Bullying, Sexual Harassment and Violence in Youth ~ Helene Dahlqvist (Sweden)
  • Masculine norms and the bullying crisis among young men in the United States ~ Kirstina Valhovicova (USA)
  • A Children’s Rights Perspective: Learning from complaints made to the Ombudsman for Children’s office about management of bullying in schools ~ Paraic Walsh (Ireland)
  • Belonging – Youth led guide on prevention of violent extremism through education ~ Alica Chan (Canada)

Returning from the Conference, Lee commented on some of the key learning he had taken from these sessions.

Firstly, Lee noted the need for greater interaction between the worlds of research, policy development and practice.

‘It is important that this is a multi-lateral conversation. Research presented at the conference was interesting and informative, however it wasn’t always clear it had a purpose or demonstrated an understanding of the practice implications of the subject being discussed’

Lee continued, ‘we need to understanding the issues for our children and young people, but we equally need to work with researchers to ensure that the information being collected, analysed and presented is relevant and that findings can better inform the development of policy and practice which can bring about positive outcomes for young children.’

Lee also noted the increasing global divide between approaches to preventing and responding to bullying behaviour, particularly that displayed online, related to different areas of the world. While many European nations represented favoured a rights-based approach, supporting our children and young people to engage with technology in a more empowered ways, other areas tended more towards restriction and control approaches.

‘This was also notable in relation to responsive strategies,’ Lee continued. ‘While our outlook favours a more restorative, education based response to bullying behaviour, many others I spoke to at the conference tended towards a more punitive, sometimes criminal, approach to responding to bullying.’

Over the course of the three day conference, the question of gender and our perception gender were increasingly discussed. May of the research reports presented focused on differences in findings based on two genders (male/female) and few explored reported experience of those children and young people who identified as trans. It was acknowledged that this is a key area of development and requires further consideration going forward.

Following the conference, the London Safeguarding Forum would like to express its thanks to all the organisers, particularly colleagues from Friends (Sweden) and the Anti-Bullying Centre of Dublin City University, for putting together such an inspiring and informative three days.