EastEnders E20


Short clip of the story

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EastEnders E20 thematic content for teachers - Bullying

Use specially cut thematic clips from the third series of EastEnders E20 to enable students to use the situations of fictional characters Ava, Donnie and Faith to learn about: Aspirations, Bullying, Sex and Relationships and Stereotypes.

Using the scenes in the video as a stimulus, students will review previous learning about the nature of bullying. They will explore the responsibilities of everyone involved - including the bystanders and consider what they can do to ensure that all members of their own school community are safe from such behaviour.

Lesson objectives

By the end of the lesson, ALL students will learn: to define bullying and identify action to deal with it.

By the end of the lesson, MOST students should learn: to define bullying and the forms that it can take, to identify ways of challenging bullying behaviour and how to improve the school's anti-bullying policy.

By the end of the lesson, SOME students could learn: to define bullying and the forms that it can take, understand the different types of bullying and the risks that bullies present. They could also take action to prevent bullying in the school and community.

Activities for the lesson

Equipment required: Internet connection, Computer, Projector / Whiteboard, Printed handouts

Activity 1 - Defining bullying (Riley's story)

Whole class

Explain to students that they are going to use video extracts from the third series of EastEnders E20 to review previous learning about bullying and build on it. The video depicts a bullying situation that escalates and results in a violent incident with far reaching repercussions. They will explore the behaviour of the key characters plus those not directly involved or on the fringes.

Ensure that students are clear about the definition of bullying. Provide them with Handout 1 - Definitions of bullying and allow time for them to read it followed by opportunities to clarify meaning or uncertainties.



Watch the video clip about Riley's story.

After viewing, students discuss what happened to Riley and the different forms the bullying took.

  • They consider Riley's situation:
  • - How did she feel? What did she think? What did she do?
  • - Is there anything more that she could have done?
  • - Should she have told Donnie sooner?
  • - What could Ava have done when Riley first confided in her?

Groups note the main points of their discussion.


Whole class

Groups circulate their notes to share discussion points. As a class, clarify any areas of disagreement.

Activity 2 - Why do bullies bully?

Whole class

Tell students they are going to explore the story from the perspective of the bullies. For an additional perspective you could view Talia's monologue: 'Blowing bulbs'.

Note: If Talia's monologue is used it is important that references to her being in care do not give the impression that all young people in care either bully or experience bullying. Be aware that some students may have experience of the care system and may want to keep this information private.

Small groups

  • Students explore:
  • - What are the reasons bullies bully others?
  • - Why did Talia and her gang bully Riley? Do you think Talia is typical of bullies or are some different from her? What is different and what is the same?
  • - Some of the reasons young people give for being in a gang include unity, a sense of belonging, identity and their own safety. Students consider how they think the other girls who join Talia's gang feel? What do they think? What do they do?
  • - Did Talia deserve what happened to her?


Whole class

Make a list of the reasons for bullying and the reasons that people may join in or ally with bullies rather than supporting the victims.

NB: when students discuss reasons for bullying, it is essential that they are never seen as an excuse. It must be stressed that all forms of bullying are completely unacceptable.

Give students copies of Handout 2 - Bullying factsheet for additional information and in preparation for future activities.

Activity 3 - Bullying - who can help?


Students identify the people around Riley and the roles they played. They discuss who else (in addition to Riley and Talia) was involved. Groups make a list of people involved with Riley and her situation - both those close to her and others who might have been in her life who might have known what was going on.

Whole class

Whole class

Drawing on group discussions, make a class list of everyone involved in Riley's life. Start with Riley and the bullies then add Donnie, Ava, Riley's carers and others involved in the story.

Build on the list of those involved with Riley's bullying situation by adding others who could be directly or indirectly involved. These could be people at Riley's school, her social workers, the onlookers, people who know about the bullying, but do nothing about it (e.g. other people in the children's home, classmates at school, people in the street or on the tube etc).

Who were, or could potentially have been, Riley's allies?

Describe some of the ways that people might show they are being bullied. For example, they show reduced confidence and self-esteem, they have unexplained bruises or cuts, they are afraid to go to school or to go to specific places, their school work is suffering, they show signs of anxiety or depression.

Small groups


Using the class list students consider who could have helped Riley. How might each have known something was wrong? What are the responsibilities of people who observe what is happening but do nothing (for example, fellow students at school, people in the street)? Are they colluding with the bullying by doing nothing? (answer - yes). What happens in their school if someone knows bullying is taking place, but is not directly involved?

Activity 4 - Homophobic bullying

Whole class

This activity begins to explore homophobic bullying. Note that if there are gay pupils in your class you should be careful not to treat them differently, refer to them or expect them to offer more insight or observations, unless they want to.


Reinforce ground-rules for discussion. Refer to the sections in Riley's story where the gang calls her a 'lesboid'. They attack her - shaving her arms because they say 'she looks like a boy'.

Discuss with the class that homophobic bullying is different from other types of bullying because of the language used. Words like "queer" and "poof" and "lezzie" have been used abusively for many years. They have now been joined by words such as "gay" and "lesbian" which were formerly descriptive but which now may be used as general insults. In some youth cultures, "gay" is now used as a derogatory adjective to describe objects and people.

small groups


Students discuss language they use with each other.

  • - To what extent do they judge others when they don't act in an expected way?
  • - Why do they assume being different is inferior?
  • - What are the similarities and differences between racist bullying, religious bullying and sexist bullying?
  • - Do they use terms such as 'gay' or 'les' as insults?
  • - How do they think that makes people feel?
  • - Does it make a difference if the person on the receiving end of the insult is, or is not, gay?
  • - How might gay people feel about the use of this language as an insult?

Whole class

Whole class

Gather views and discuss the fact that people are often bullied because they are perceived as different. This can be because they are of different race, religion, appearance or sexual orientation to the majority.

Discuss the sensitivities about reporting homophobic bullying, and tell them to think about ways to improve the reporting of incidents. This work will be used in the next activity.

Activity 5 - Reviewing the school's anti-bullying policy

Whole class

Tell students they are going to review the school's anti-bullying policy to check whether it would support someone in Riley's position. Would it also deal with bullies such as Talia and her gang as well as encouraging the 'colluding bystanders' to take action?

Small groups


Students use the checklist to consider whether the school's existing policy is clear, well-known and appropriate for all circumstances.

Whole class

Whole class

Groups report back on the policy 'health check'.

  • Discuss areas where procedures are not known, clear or thought to be inadequate.
  • Decide with the students what the issues are.
  • For example:
  • - the policy exists but procedures are not known by all students.
  • - not all students understand all aspects of bullying.
  • - policy on homophobic bullying is unclear.
  • - the policy does not take account of the differences between cyberbullying and other forms.

Students draw up a list of priority issues.

Activity 6 - Taking action

Whole class

Discuss the list of priorities produced in the last activity and work out a timeline for addressing them. Decide who will do what.

Small groups


Students work in groups to research specific issues and plan to take action to address the identified priorities.

If cyberbullying has been identified visit the Anti-Bullying Network: Cyberbullying information to clarify what it is and provide some advice for dealing with it. Some students may have taken part in cyberbullying without realising what they were doing. Stress the importance of taking the issue seriously and including it in the school's policy.

If the policy needs reviewing in relation to homophobic bullying, there are additional materials on the Stonewall website.

Handout 4 - Dealing with bullies can be used to review the policy on approaches to dealing with bullying situations.

Handout 5 - Suggestions for student action provides some ideas for action.

Whole class

Whole class

Review the action and plan a future review cycle to evaluate its impact.

Icon key

Icon Key

Key skills and learning skills

  • Communication
  • Application of number
  • ICT
  • Problem solving
  • Working with others
  • Improving own performance
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Exploring meaning
  • Reflection
  • Research skills
  • Presentation skills

AFL strategies

  • Sharing learning objectives
  • Use of questioning
  • Effective feedback
  • Modelling
  • Pupil self assessment
  • Peer assessment
  • Ongoing assessment
  • Adjusting teaching/reviewing
  • Plenary

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