Student ambassadors, who clamped down on bullying virtually eradicating the issue by creating a culture of zero tolerance, have won national recognition for their efforts.
Anti-bullying ambassadors at South Shields School have collected the Diana Award, a nationwide accolade designed to tackle the problem head on.
The school has also adopted a panda mascot who makes regular appearances to keep the issue at the forefront of staff and students’ minds.
Ambassadors have been specially trained to help any potential victims of bullying, who are proving to be more willing to open up to their peers than to adults.
They have also been instructed to help if the bullying is digital and the issue moves from the classroom and playground to the student’s home life.
Ambassador Jessica Kirkaldy, 15, said: “There are 15 of us involved directly with the scheme but what we are doing has spread throughout the school creating a culture where any bullying will not be tolerated.”
Ambassador Max Roberts said: “There really isn’t very much bullying at all. Where teachers might not hear about incidents, students certainly will and we can take suitable action to make it stop.”
Assemblies have been held on the subject to make it clear what constitutes bullying behaviour and any students behaving inappropriately have been questioned about their actions.
Powerpoints, posters, monitoring and student logs also increase the profile of the issue.
For Peter Millet, 12, the initiative has helped him settle into his new school and improve his learning.
“I was one of a few pupils to come from my primary school so didn’t know many students,” he said.
“But when I was having some trouble at the beginning the ambassadors intervened and now I feel much more part of the family.”
Head of Years 8 and 9 and anti-bullying co-ordinator Kim Symington said: “We wanted the students to take ownership of the issue and the panda is a constant reminder rather than having one-off events.
“Bullying can affect people all their lives and now our students are equipped to step in – not be bystanders – to show it is unacceptable.”
She said parents had also welcomed the initiative and would ask for an ambassador if they felt their children were experiencing difficulties. The school had also received sponsorship from Education Network, Carillion, Wynyard Concierge and Ikea to continue the project, which has been adopted elsewhere in the country.