This week the topic of bullying seemed to come up in most of the schools I worked in.
The notable exception was a small (eight kids) school in the middle of nowhere.
One comment made me think about gender balance in schools.
The comment (from a female principal) – “It always happens in the boys’ toilets”. She was talking about boy on boy bullying – most of it physical, of the push and shove type.
My memories of the principalship are that one of the best strategies to cut down the intensity, duration and frequency of these incidents is through close supervision, especially in the playground, and especially around the toilets, or in places teachers usually avoid. I developed a bit of a reputation when I was on duty for patrolling these places (usually invisible from the admin block) to the point where at one high school my nickname was “Ninja”.
It used to work, but of course back then, there were male teachers available to supervise the boys’ toilets and other hidden areas. It’s a big ask for female teachers to supervise boys’ toilets, especially in secondary schools. It simply doesn’t happen.
So one major barrier to controlling bullying is a chronic lack of male teachers. I work in many schools were there are simply no males. Even the cleaners and Janitors are female.
Put simply, this is a problem.
Efforts to allow some kind of affirmative action strategy to normalise the gender balance are generally frowned upon.
That’s a shame.
Until gender balance, a critical element of school culture is considered, efforts to eliminate the problem have not been serious.