Hackney New School ends bullying by banning traditional playtime

Hackney New School

Charlotte Whelan, headteacher at Hackney New School - Credit: Hackney New School

The headteacher at Hackney New School claims to have almost completely eliminated bullying by banning games such as football at lunch and break times.

Instead of “unstructured play” students at the school in Kingsland Road, Dalston, take part in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals or extracurricular activities when not in lessons. These include chess, orchestra and choir clubs.

Headteacher Charlotte Whelan said there have been just five incidents of bullying reported in the last year, including cyberbullying during lockdown, and there have been no permeant exclusions. 

Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, students practise sonnets by classic poets Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities.

Pupils have memorised poems Ozymandias and Charge of Light Brigade off by heart and recite them as they line up for lessons or when they are eating lunch, Ms Whelan said. 


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Ms Whelan said: “It’s long been my belief that we could be doing more for pupils while they on their breaks, so often you see them aimlessly wondering the playground. We want every second at school to count.

“We began by introducing the poetry recitals during break and lunch and the students really responded well. It evolved from there.

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“Just yesterday a group of year 9 students beat me in a name the capital cities quiz, this would have been unthinkable two years ago.”

She stressed students do still take exercise during break times and during PE lessons, but sports is “more structured”.

“They get exercise and play sport at break time but in a more structured way with teachers there to make sure behaviour remains impeccable,” she said. 

“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving. A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable, we have done it.”

The school is part of the Community Schools Trust which also runs The Cumberland School in Newham, where students won £1million of scholarships to top fee paying schools this year. 

The prestigious colleges programme is due to be rolled out at Hackney New School next year. 

Mrs Whelan added: “We are working alongside exceptional leaders who are creating life changing opportunities for students at this school and others.”
 

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