The Support Group Approach

… or shared group response

The support group approach was developed by George Robinson and has been adapted by many anti-bullying organisations. It empowers young people to change behaviour and make decisions with low level input from a facilitator- a teacher or other adult.

It is essential that facilitators have support and training in this approach and are willing to remain an objective facilitator. The target of the bullying needs to agree that this is the appropriate way forward for them.

Step One: The facilitator talks to the child who has been bullied. They can help the children record his or her feelings through drawing, poetry or by talking.

Step Two: The facilitator meets with the group of pupils who have been involved, including the named perpetrators. This includes some bystanders and some peers who are positive role models but not the target. We recommend about 8 children in total.

Step Three: The facilitator tells the group how the target pupil feels, sharing the expressed views of the target pupil. No accusations are made.

Step Four: Each member of the group is asked for ideas about how to help the target child feel happier. No prompts are given; the suggestions are accepted by the facilitator.

Step Five: The facilitator passes responsibility to the group to solve the problem. He/she arranges to meet the group again in about a week.

Step Six: The facilitator meets with the group and the target pupil, separately, after a chosen time, to monitor the situation and to celebrate successes. This meeting may need to be repeated if the target still feels there is an issue.

The key to the success of this approach is the dynamics of the chosen group and the monitoring of the situation. This approach ensures the safety of all concerned by allocating no accusation or blame to anyone but allowing everyone to take responsibility for improving the situation.

The advantages of this approach are that it empowers the young people to take responsibility for changing the behaviour of the group.

Research shows a high success rate in stopping bullying behaviour in the early stages.

The disadvantages of this approach are that it can be time consuming and it needs dedicated members of staff who believe in the approach to make it work.

This approach will not work if the bullying behaviour is entrenched in the culture of the community or the incident has been going on for longer than half a term. In these cases other interventions will be necessary.