Radio Two Debate: Should Self-Defence be taught in Schools?

This report is the result of a debate, that I took part in on the Jeremy Vine show on BBC radio 2 some time back. The topic was indeed a controversial one and I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t given the time to air my views as much as I would have liked. My opinion on the subject comes from what I have observed and concluded from working within the field of Self-Protection with students of a large all girls’ school (some 1600 pupils) in Southampton and also with the probation service here, where I have done some work with young male school age offenders, as well as from teaching my own children and from my own experience of bullying in school whilst growing up. This experience has led me to conclude my personal opinion on this topic that I would like to bring to the table.

I feel that certain elements of Self-Protection should be introduced as part the school curriculum in the UK. I use this term as oppose to Self-Defence as this indicates that a physical response is already required. What I am referring to by the term Self-Protection, are that children are first introduced to some Personal Security Measures such as; Awareness, Confident Attitude Demeanor, Positive Body-Language, understanding of Personal Space, understanding Aggressive Body-Language as well as Assertive Verbal Dissuasion etc. These are the core principles of Self-Protection applicable to children in a schooled environment. This may or may not, then be supported by physical skills i.e technical proficiency. This is where the subject becomes controversial after all there are certain variables to consider before teaching any child in a physical sense.

  • Is the child responsible enough to learn such methods? Or is there a chance that the individual may abuse his/her skill on another child?

  • What kind of physical skills should the child be taught? Are we talking about defending oneself from an adult aggressor? Or counter measures for Anti-Bullying from fellow pupils?

  • We can see via the newspapers and the media that bullying in the schools of today are starting to involve more and more weapons and are often influenced from within a gang related environment.

  • In which case it is necessary to ask the question, is it actually possible for a single child to effectively defend his/herself in a physical sense, under those circumstances?

  • Those most considered for the physical aspect of training; might be individuals who are thought to be most at risk or those who are already experiencing bullying. Conversely to that, those who, shall we say, are already known for troublesome behavior would not be considered. Perhaps introduce some kind of vetting process? Regardless of this, I think the starting point begins with understanding what bullying is and how it actually starts. As well as helping the individual to gain an understanding of his/herself from a child’s perspective and the reasons one may allow themselves to be bullied in the first place. Then maybe take a look at measures that can be taken, to counter the same. Starting with Self Honesty, development of Self Confidence, taking action by facing the fear head on in order to take back the power that you have allowed the bully to take. Speaking from personal experience of bullying at school as I was growing up. I can tell you now as an adult, I know for a fact that all bullies are simply cowards who are petrified of being found out.

    I can also tell you, that if you are a little subservient or different in anyway regardless of class, color or creed then you might be considered a suitable candidate for bullying. My advice to anyone who is being bullied is to tell someone, don’t whatever you do suffer in silence. Tell your parents, a relative, a teacher, tell anyone who will listen and can help you. In the majority schools are becoming a lot less tolerant of such behavior now days compared to when I was at school but in order for anyone to help they must know what is going on.

    With that said it is evident that children are becoming more desensitized to the vulgarities of violence. Incidents in schools where children are getting stabbed and slashed in class are becoming more and more common. Just recently 15-year-old Natasha Jackman, needed surgery to her eyelid after being attacked with a pair of scissors at Collingwood College in Camberly and a month before this, 12 year-old Shanni Naylor needed 30 stitches to her face after she was slashed with the blade from a pencil sharpener. The Home Office Ministers are laying plans for random searches of students for sharp objects and for any pointy objects found to be confiscated.

    This is supported with the quote in the newspaper that ‘’such a measures will make our school premises significantly safer in the future!’’ But the sad reality is that it won’t, there is no way that the complete removal of such objects will solve the problem. If an individual has the INTENTION to cause harm then a pen or a pencil will do the job and you can’t teach children in school without giving them the ability to write. Education for those at risk is what is required along with harsher penalties for those who offend. So in summary to that I stand firm on the subject that yes certain aspects of Self-Protection should be introduced to all schools across the UK and I for one would be happy to help with steps in that direction.


    Bullying is a serious subject, which carries serious consequences, when we hear through the media of reports that some children are so despairing that they are attempting to commit suicide, then surely as a society we should be looking at doing all we can in terms of options, to deal with the problem. Peace.