Focus on school bullying

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A new ‎Australian anti-bullying documentary takes the battle to the school-yard, with two University of Queensland academics weighing in on the topic of bullying in school sport.

The documentary, From the Quadrangle, asks experts to dig deep into the roots of bullying in schools and examine long-term strategies to help address the issue.

UQ’s Associate Professor Murray Phillips and Dr Louise McCuaig, from the UQ School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, appear in the film, alongside some of Australia’s most passionate anti-bullying advocates.

Associate Professor Phillips said school sport and physical activity was one of the most common platforms for bullying, because physical appearance and abilities are laid bare.

“When school students get changed into their gym clothes or swimming costume, the body’s physical appearance is exposed for all to see,” he said.

“Then, during sport and physical activity, its physical abilities are visually on show.”

“If young people are not accepting of different body shapes and ability levels in sport and physical activity, it sets up an environment where bullying flourishes.”

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Research has shown that negative peer interactions during sport and physical activities include being teased about weight, being made fun of when exercising, having peers use physical domination, and receiving negative reactions when chosen for a team.

Associate Professor Phillips said such negative interactions could have long-term effects such as poor self-esteem and confidence, which can then contribute to withdrawal from sport and physical activity.

Dr McCuaig, convenor of the UQ Health, Sport and Physical Teacher Education Program, said future HPE teachers needed to learn how to connect students of all backgrounds, abilities and sizes with sport and physical activity.

“Teachers need to know how to build a culture of acceptance, respect and fairness so all students can enjoy the experience,” she said.

Dr McCuaig said the UQ HPE teacher education degree included experiences to involve future teachers in activities that took them out of their comfort zone.

“The purpose is to make them feel a sense of exposure and uncertainty, teaching them to empathise with their students,” she said.

“Through these small provocations, future teachers are encouraged to make an effort to get to know each and every student, and find ways to help them connect with sport and physical activity.”

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The documentary has aired on Channel ONE HD and can be viewed online.

It explores a range of celebrities’ personal experiences of bullying at school including Missy Higgins, Adam Goodes, Tim Ferguson, Kate Miller-Heidke, Hazem El Masri, Penny Wong, Eddie Perfect, Megan Washington, Charlie Pickering, Wendy Harmer, Judith Lucy and Benjamin Law.

(Source: The University of Queensland)

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Date Created: April 24, 2015