With anti – bullying week just days away (14th – 18th Nov), the problems around e-safety and new media continue to mount, with revenge porn cases getting younger, universities offering classes in consent, and increasing problems of mental health among young people and in particular, girls. 

Enfield playwright Alan Spence got the idea for his project My name is Tom after reading an article about the first cases of ‘sexting’ back in 2009. Since 2014 Alan has been working with schools in North London talking to students and teachers and community groups to develop the project’s educational materials and with funding from the Enfield Residents Priority Fund has produced a DVD of the play performance and an 80 page booklet full of ideas and activities.

Alan qualified as a teacher in 1986 and remembers the time when some pupils would say “teachers don’t do anything about bullying”. To which I would always say, give us the information and we can do something about it, and thankfully that did happen. But now, with many of the incidents happening outside of the school gates and more likely online, schools are now in an invidious position.

The My name is Tom Education Project has given free copies of the pack to a number of Enfield schools and Alan says there are still a few copies of the pack available, if schools wanted to contact him. The DVD includes a play promo, a full performance with colour co-ordinated subtitles, individual scenes and scene extracts with discussion points. The education booklet is in three parts; You, the community and E-safety, My name is Tom – the production and Curriculum materials in  Art and Design / PSHE – Citizenship /  English / Media Studies / Drama. All in Calibri font size 14.

The booklet also features surveys by the very successful Brighton – based anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label who’s 2016 survey illustrates the scale of the problem today…

1.5 million young people (50%) have been bullied within the past year.

• 145,800 (19%) of these were bullied EVERY DAY.

• Twice as many boys as girls bully (66% of males vs. 31% females).

• 24% of those who have been bullied go on to bully.

• 20% of all young people have physically attacked somebody.

• 44% of young people who have been bullied experience depression.

• 41% of young people who have been bullied experience social anxiety.

• 33% of those being bullied have suicidal thoughts.

 

Alan believes that My name is Tom has a unique approach in that it brings together the experiences, views, concerns and ideas of both young people and adults, with a key aim of getting young people and adults to talk to each other.  So often these issues when covered by plays, they only feature teenage characters, My name is Tom engages with parental issues that are both positive and realistic.

Concerns about what schools can actually do, comes from the many parents we have talked to, some of whom have had to deal with difficult of bullying and to be told by their children…

“It’s a long time since you were at school,

things are different now”

Indeed parents of younger children are now feeling the pressure to buy them smart phones, set up social network accounts and in some cases, having to listen to their sexualised language of how they now talk about each other. The matter is complicated even further by some well – meaning parents who post pictures of their children online, with the possibility that a child by the age of 5, can have as many as 1000 pictures online. Yes 1000 pictures.

One Primary school told me recently that they can have all the policies in place, lots of guidance in their school displays, when questioning pupils they can give you all the right answers, then they go home and get their computers and phones out.

“They want to do the same things as their

older brothers and sisters online”

While all the time being allowed to by parents. Primary schools like Secondary are in a no win situation. But then young people fear that if they ask for help they will get into trouble, will feel shamed, receive further abuse and don’t know who to trust.

My name is Tom is now working with Primary schools on new materials to help explore these issues for parents and schools and will be available from Summer 2017.  Later this month Alan will be taking the project to Barnet Practitioners Forum and Dazu Youth Club in Southgate

For more information on the project please see:

http://theatreisreallifeproductions.com/tomwebsite/