Cussing, fighting, bullying : aspects of pupil interaction in the lower years of a mixed, multicultural, inner city comprehensive school
Bullying has been a source of disquiet, if not moral panic, in recent years. Yet pupil experience outside the classroom has rarely been given the attention it deserves in educational research devoted to the problem. This study examines the social relations between pupils in the lower years of a mixed, multicultural, inner city school. It is based upon long term participant observation as a teacher researcher and aims to develop a sociological appreciation of aggression and bullying during school-day free-time. Part One explains the origins of the research. Recent studies of 'cussing' (verbal abuse), fighting (a topic which has hitherto received very little attention), and bullying are then examined in detail. The research seeks to identify the links, if any, between hostile social relations in school and broader social inequalities at a societal level. Further, it aims to tease out ways in which micro level divisions of power within the pupils' social world shape, and are used by children within interactions. Close attention is therefore given to the meaning, or meanings, of the term 'power'. Models of relative power which inform research focusing upon pupil experience are also identified. In Part Two, both the research site, City School, and the research techniques used are described. Cussing, fighting and bullying, forms of aggressive interaction which distress pupils and obstruct the achievement of curricular goals, are then examined closely. Consideration of gender, 'race' and age grading provides a sharper awareness of underlying power divisions and of how these constrain opportunities for the relatively weak. In Part Three, ways of improving the quality of experience available for pupils during school-day free-time are identified. Whilst the complexity of this task is acknowledged, the study concludes with a renewed sense of optimism about what may be achieved when teachers are more effectively equipped with the skills to understand and, where necessary, make sensitive interventions.