Spanish schools have been aware of the problem of bullying in the classroom for many years and have applied a variety of measures to prevent it. This phenomenon occurs most frequently in the last years of primary and the first years of secondary education. Consequently, the students involved tend to be between 10 and 13 years of age.

Both the authorities and private centres have gone to a great effort to put an end to this scourge in Spanish classrooms. The various autonomous communities tackle the problem from different viewpoints, but they focus above all on educational and preventive actions aimed at improving the social climate and relationships in schools.

The responsibility of the school community

The schools themselves are the most concerned with eradicating this type of behaviour. They have learned that abusive behaviour does not have one single cause, and they must therefore take action in all areas of the school community: students, teachers, families and other educational workers. Each of them takes on a different role and functions:

Leadership team. The leaders of a centre must make a clear and decisive commitment to prevent and fight against any form of violence towards young people. They will establish the steps that the school community must follow and foresee any potential problems related to bullying.

Teachers. Teachers must set an example for students, meaning they should display impeccable conduct both in the school and in the classroom. Their role is essential as they are in close contact with students and, therefore, are the first to detect aggression or insults directed towards certain individuals.

Students. Students must not tolerate offensive or derogatory comments between their classmates. These attacks must always be stopped straight away, especially when they are jokes about someone’s appearance, ethnicity or gender. Tutors will discuss these issues in class, as it has been proven that we can prevent the problem from going further if it is nipped in the bud.

Student involvement is fundamental. At the Best Schools in Spain, we work on formulas that put student in the front line of the fight against bullying or disrespectful attitudes between peers. They have a privileged position when it comes to stopping this type of behaviour in its tracks, rejecting and clearly refusing to accept it, and correcting the actions of those who do not respect others.

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Actions and goals

To achieve these goals, schools in Spain often implement a variety of measures:

Organisational measures. Actions developed in schools to improve the social climate and, therefore, prevent conflicts and bullying: supervision during break times, in school corridors, during classroom changes, at lunch time, when entering and leaving school, etc. Conflicts between students often arise in these situations.

Educational measures. Schools must establish continuous communication channels with both pupils and their parents to inform them about the organisational measures taken at the centre. In addition, they must be able to evaluate how effective the measures are in order to subsequently incorporate new improvement proposals.

Internal communication. Internal communication systems are an essential measure to stop school bullying in its tracks. These systems must be confidential and allow students to report bullying or ask for help. The most common examples are suggestions boxes, a telephone line or an email address.

Specific action strategies against classroom violence

Some schools in Spain have tried out methodologies suggested by foreign researchers, and they are proving to be very effective:

Conflict mediation programmes. A group of students must be accepted by the school community and be trained as “mediators” to help resolve conflicts. Their goal is to identify, analyse and solve common problems. Their actions go further than just dealing with bullying.

Peer assistance programmes. A group of students advise their peers that are being or have been bullied. They talk to their peers, support them and reflect on the problem to help find a solution.

The social intervention strategy known as the Pikas method. This method is used to break dominating or aggressive links between small groups of victims and bullies. This is brought together in a plan to change social relationships and eventually leads the very bullies to help their one-time victims. Through individual sessions, all members of the group are encouraged to reflect on their attitude.

Help for victims to become more assertive. These exercises work on social skills and aim to help victims go through the entire process of being in a situation where they have to make a decision and see that the results strengthen their self-esteem.

Strategy to increase bullies’ empathy. These educational processes re-establish the emotional sensitivity of children that have lived in violent or unloving environments.

Other actions to combat bullying in Spain

Among other activities to combat this phenomenon in Spain, we must highlight the work of the Spanish law enforcement agencies, like the National and Local Police Forces and the Civil Guard, which carry out activities with students in schools.

These organisations have created special units to work in schools that have a double role. On the one hand, they patrol near schools so that students are aware of and are used to their presence, and they can intervene or help if necessary. On the other hand, they lead information sessions with students to raise awareness about the severity of bullying and, above all, cyberbullying, in addition to the consequences of spreading images of third parties or harassing their classmates on the internet and social media.

The Best Schools in Spain have a threefold objective: to prevent bullying, to minimise the effects of any cases we detect and to stay one step ahead of any potential cases of bullying by raising awareness among the entire school community.