The UK government has pledged £4.4 million towards a range of projects designed to combat bullying, homophobia, racism and similar challenges in modern schools – including a boost for an anti-bullying app which has proven successful in helping victims anonymously report this kind of behaviour.
The app, called Tootoot, lets children screenshot abusive messages and send photographs of bullying behaviour to teachers and mentors at schools which participate in the scheme. Trials of Tootoot began in early 2015, and proved to be highly successful, with its impact on launch reported in one case to be ‘instantaneous’.
“Within 24 hours of launching the app, we had two cases online and were able to deal with some concerns at once,” reported one mentor at a school in Oldham.
The Department for Education has pledged that 120,000 students in 300 schools will have access to Tootoot, which, though a privately-developed commercial platform, is administrated for use in schools by non-profit online safety organisation Internet Matters.
In addition to funding to increase the use of Tootoot in UK schools, the DfE is also committed to training 4,500 teachers and educating 60,000 parents about ways that children can be protected from bullying and cyber-bullying.
Tootoot was conceived by Michael Brennan in the wake of experiencing bullying himself. Inspired to help others suffering the same way, he spent two years in collaboration with teachers and governing bodies to develop the app, having already launched the UK’s first peer-mentoring scheme in 2008.
“I was bullied as a young boy,” said Brennan. “As a result, I was forced to move schools. I wanted to help other students who were being bullied…I spent two years developing Tootoot alongside teachers, with the goal of providing students with a safe, anonymous environment to report and resolve their concerns discretely.”
The £4.4 million total which the DfE has earmarked for a range of related projects includes £2.8 million from the Government Equalities Office and £1.6 million over two years from the DfE itself. Participating groups include Internet Matters, the Diana Award, the LGBT consortium, the Anne Frank Trust, the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Stonewall and the National Children’s Bureau.