Physical education may exacerbate or expose a number of characteristics, such as physical, social, or sensory impairments, that have shown to increase the likelihood of victimization. Bullying in PE can take shape in many different ways. It often focuses on a lack of physical fitness, body shape or perceived lack of sporting ability which can leave a severe dent in a student’s self-confidence that lasts a lifetime. As a result, children have a tendancy to want to avoid physical activity as a whole not just in the short term, but in the long term too.
Preventing bullying in PE is therefore mission-critical for a healthy life in school and beyond – so how can you achieve bully-free PE classes? Here are some tips and things to consider when planning your PE cirriculum.
- SELECT ACTIVITIES THAT ARE FUN AND SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE
Half the battle of engaging students in PE is creating lesson plans that are fun. When you choose an activity that keeps everyone moving you also keep downtime to a minimum. Times where students are waiting or stood around for whatever reason are when bullying has an opportunity to emerge, so reduce the time available to students to be inactive and criticise others.
- BE MINDFUL OF YOUR PARTNER / TEAM SELECTION – DO NOT LET CHILDREN PICK THEIR OWN TEAMS
Organising this element before your lessons ensures that students are never left out, picked last or teamed up together with the same group each time. Bullies can gravitate towards each other to form groups that exclude others and fuel their tendencies to mock and make fun of non-members. Take care to notice the reactions of individuals when they are paired together; are they unhappy because they wanted to be grouped with a friend or because their tormentor is now their partner for this PE lesson?
- COMPETITIVE BANTER OR BULLYING BEHAVIOUR?
When you spot bullying you should pick up on it immediately in front of the class, making it clear that bullying is not acceptable. At this point however you shouldn’t ask the person to apologise or make amends – dealing with it once the moment has passed puts you in a stronger position with a more collected mind-set. Potential outcomes can include peer mediation, teacher mediation or parent involvement.
- CHILDREN FREQUENTLY ABSENT FOR PE DAY OR THAT MAKE EXCUSES / FEIGN INJURY
Picking up on students who are potentially being bullied is the first step to stamping out bullying. Look out for children who continually skip class (whether with a parental note or otherwise) and be subtle when pulling them to one side to investigate further. Children who have been criticized for their physical skills, chosen last and ridiculed seem to avoid physical activity, perhaps because from previous experience they figure it’s punishing and they’ll stay on the sidelines.
- BE MINDFUL OF THE HEIGHTENED RISK OF SEND STUDENTS BEING VICTIMISED
Study after study highlights the plight of SEND students in PE, with those with disabilities consistently reporting a higher chance of them suffering bullying during this lesson. Knowing your student is key to overcoming this – for example, try to group SEND students with those they are friendly with if playing a team sport. You should also carefully plan your lessons to present an equal chance of point scoring or progression, as the image of ability and success is key to preventing victimisation.