Could technology be the answer to your bullying problem?

As a school executive or teacher, it is a constant challenge to tackle bullying. Small fixes make a difference in the classroom on a given day, but imagining a solution that works more holistically against the problem seems far fetched. Bullying can be overt or covert, in person or online, masked as a ‘joke’ or just blatant unkindness. While things, like preventing phone use or blocking social media during school hours, can help address cyberbullying behavior, these fixes don’t address verbal or social bullying in the classroom. Curriculum-based anti-bullying strategies are not usually the first approach considered, yet the design and construction of your timetable can reduce the scope for bullying to occur. The right technology can help you timetable smarter in a way that not only improves the running of your school but the wellbeing and experience of your students in and out of the classroom.

How can timetabling technology reduce bullying?

It’s commonly understood that producing a working timetable can be time-consuming and laborious, no matter the size or complexity of your school. Imagining the extra work it would take to consider how to optimise classes, rooming, teachers and more to reduce bullying, it’s no wonder these strategies are not the first to be tried. However, with the right technology in hand, these techniques and more can be employed to craft a smarter timetable that reduces bullying in your school. 

Clever class list management

An easy and effective approach to tackling classroom bullies is to ensure they’re not placed in the same classes as their likely victims or their likely partners in crime. If you know a number of bullies who only act thus when in a group and able to ‘egg each other on’, you’re able to separate them across a number of classes. Conversely, pairing specific students with others who may protect and support them can also be helpful.  This is where technology comes into play, enabling this allocation to happen quickly and easily. Advanced timetabling software can manage social relationships in creative ways and assist schools to produce better class lists. Initially, enabling your software control to auto-generate class lists can give you a good start. While it’s important to have a personal understanding of good student combinations, good software can provide you with classes that are gender, size and socially balance, as well as academically set.  In the Edval Timetabling software, you can also specifically address bullying by grouping students. Tagging two or more students as a ‘Mischievous Pair’ or ‘Buddy Pair’ ensures they end up where they need to be – together or apart. The software will then alert you if these grouped students are placed incorrectly in classes.

Reduce student movement and distraction

While there will always be some movement by students between classes, the amount of movement can be minimised or planned wisely with the right technology. Unnecessary movement gives students more opportunity to misbehave, meet up with their ‘Mischievous Pair’ or simply get distracted. Excessive movement also enables bullies better opportunity to encounter and harass their victims out of sight of staff.    The smarter way to schedule movement by students is during break periods like lunch and recess. Going from one side of the school to another is natural when coming from a commonplace, and students also have more time to be on time! Imagine a school that has English and History rooms in Building A and Science and Language in Building B. Unnecessary movement would be students attending English in Building A followed by Science in Building B. Smarter timetabling ensures students do English and History in Building A before recess, then attend Science in Building B after their break. 

Flexible structures and dynamic changes

The ability to make easy but important changes throughout the year is a key advantage of good timetabling software. When changes to class lists are required, the ability to do so quickly and easily, with minimal disruption, can make all the difference when it comes to classroom bullying. By scheduling classes in the same subject together, students can be easily moved around when unforeseen issues arrive, thus ensuring you’re building a timetable that works for you, not one that restricts you with full blocks or unaligned classes.  More advanced software, like the Edval timetabling product, not only groups classes better but can dynamically respond to issues very easily. A school may initially pair 7A + 7B and 7C + 7D but later see the need to mix up the combination or rearrange the students. Being able to implement these regroupings in minutes within the working timetable enables the analysis of multiple solutions and combinations. This powerful feature allows school leaders to better tune their timetable dynamically as issues and challenges arise.  While you may not automatically think of smarter timetabling as an effective anti-bullying strategy, the above ideas demonstrate only the surface of what a smart timetable can achieve. Rather than spending time on distressed students, annoyed parents, frustrated teachers and bad grades, consider spending a little more time in your timetable. With the right technology, your timetable can be a powerful and dynamic tool for better outcomes, culture, and wellbeing for students, staff and parents.     What will you implement to begin your school’s transformation?

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