International school responses to peer-on-peer abuse and harm: identifying enablers and barriers
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AbstractExisting research suggests that peer-on-peer abuse affects a significant minority of young people globally and is a matter of serious concern. Whilst previous studies have examined school responses to peer-on-peer abuse, this existing evidence has typically been limited to examining barriers, rather than enablers, and has not been from within an international school context. At the same time, practitioners are increasingly paying attention to child abuse in international school settings, with growing recognition that some typifying features of these settings may affect students’ vulnerabilities and school responses. This thesis makes an original contribution to the field by exploring, for the first time, the impact of some of these typifying features. It examines the manifestation of peer-on-peer abuse in international school settings and the extent to which different factors can help and/or hinder professionals’ efforts to address this form of harm. This thesis applies systems, feminist and postcolonial theories to the analysis of survey and focus group data from 65 professionals and 32 students. In total, 64 international schools across 34 countries and four continents are represented in this study. This thesis examines how in-school features such as policy frameworks and education programmes can affect school responses and rates of harm. It highlights the need for schools to co-construct safeguarding strategies with students and to put in place clear parameters to guide this work. It identifies a gap in responses to peer-on-peer abuse that takes place outside of school and it explores how overly formal safeguarding procedures can sometimes undermine students’ protection. This thesis provides a unique examination of the interactions between different elements external to a school’s system. It demonstrates how the collision of different cultural norms in one school environment can lead to tension, and how cultural norms and cultural diversity can facilitate and/or constrain peer-on-peer abuse. This is knowledge that professionals can use when designing interventions that seek to leverage protective norms and eliminate harmful ones. It also provides insights into how some influential and affluent parents have drawn on their considerable resources to apply pressure on international schools in ways that can undermine students’ protection, and it offers strategies to counteract this pressure. This thesis also highlights the harmful effects of some legal norms and agency responses in some countries. It calls for professionals in these countries to create reporting procedures and develop relationships that are appropriate and realistic given the wider child protection system in which their school operates. Finally, it highlights the replication of colonial discourses in professionals’ and parents’ understandings of each other and demonstrates how the application of western child protection models in non-western contexts can undermine interventions. It concludes by urging professionals to test assumptions that they might hold about the communities they serve, and to consider what safeguarding models might look like if they were rooted in the cultural knowledge and norms represented by the school’s students, parents and professionals. Although of particular relevance to international schools, many of the findings in this study also hold relevance for schools more broadly.
CitationRigg, K. (2023) 'International School Responses to Peer-on-Peer Abuse and Harm: Identifying Enablers and Barriers'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate in Leadership of Children’s and Young People’s Services
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