Teenager’s mission to end bullying

NEARLY 300 schoolchildren have taken part in the city’s second anti-bullying conference.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 9:40 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:34 pm
Anti-bullying conference at the Guildhall in Portsmouth. Picture: Johnny Black

The event, which took place at the Guildhall, was organised by Keiran O’Toole, 18, through his company Rock Clothing. Keiran established the social enterprise to educate children about bullying after having been a victim during his own school days.

Keiran said: ‘I moved to Portsmouth when I was 11 and suffered bullying from pupils in the year above. I spoke to staff but they weren’t particularly helpful. When I started Rock Clothing I decided I wanted to use the business as a vehicle to support other children experiencing what I went through.’

The conference involved 268 children in Year’s 4 to 6 from 12 different primary schools. Pupils took part in a number of different workshops looking at identifying the signs of bullying, the growing issue of online bullying and putting together action plans to implement at their own schools. 

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Anti-bullying conference at the Guildhall in Portsmouth. Picture: Johnny Black

‘When we asked the children how many had experienced bullying, 75 per cent put their hands up. I am on a mission to bring young people to the forefront of tackling bullying and driving change in their schools. We should embrace the power of young people and give them a voice to support the wellbeing of others,’ explained Keiran.

The conference also included a workshop by Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, head of the Mental Health in Childhood and Education research hub at the University of Portsmouth.

‘It is important not to lose sight of the fact that bullying can have a huge and lasting impact on mental and emotional health. Bullying can cause issues with self-esteem, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Many conferences are directed at teachers but with this initiative it was great to be able to interact directly with the children,’ explained Dr Sims-Schouten. 

The event was sponsored by Portsmouth City Council. Cabinet member for education, Councillor Suzy Horton, said: ‘I have been super impressed. The workshops are about giving children the tools to deal with bullying. Tackling the issue can increase attendance and improve attainment.’