Concerns over new anti-bullying programme

A TEACHING union has raised concerns over a new computer programme which will allow schools in Suffolk to store information on bullies and their victims.

Suffolk County Council is to pilot the Sentinel Anti-Bullying programme in a number of schools over the course of the next year.

The system, which has been provided with some initial funding by Suffolk Constabulary, will allow schools to record and categorise incidents of bullying.

This includes -

n Identifying issues relating to individuals involved in bullying - both perpetrator and

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n Identifying where and when incidents of bullying are taking place within the school and

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allowing better targeting of resources.

n Storing information on actual or potential incidents from which reports on individuals and linked incidents or trends can be produced.

n Providing a way of measuring the impact and effectiveness of

any new anti-bullying strategy or initiative introduced in a school setting.

The pilot is due to run until April next year and if it is successful it will be rolled out across the county during 2011.

It is hoped that if the Sentinel programme is introduced across all the county’s schools, it will provide the county council with a more accurate picture of bullying in Suffolk.

However, last night, Graham White, the secretary of the Suffolk division of the National Union of Teachers, said he had some concerns about the storage of data on individual pupils who are either bullying or being bullied.

“Clearly we do need to monitor bullying in schools and Suffolk County Council needs to be aware of bullying incidents so it can provide the support to schools, that is the really important thing.

“However I have some concerns about security. It is important that within schools all storage is absolutely secure so that nobody can get to it. We know that pupils are extremely IT literate and we are aware that pupils have been able to access sensitive data in the past. We do need to make sure that whatever security system is in place, it is absolutely secure.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “Sentinel Anti-Bullying Programme is currently being piloted in a number of Suffolk schools. The prevention of bullying in our schools is a key priority of the county’s Children and Young People’s Plan 2 for 2009-11. The Sentinel system will allow headteachers to measure and report all incidents systematically. Bullying must not be tolerated in our schools; the new programme will be a useful tool to help ensure that any incidents are dealt with effectively.”

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