National TV star Andy Day is calling on schools and youth organisations across Northern Ireland to join together for their first ever link up with Odd Socks Day on Monday 16 November, as part of Anti-Bullying Week (16-20 November), when the CBeebies and CBBC star and his band Andy and the Odd Socks will be launching their new charity single ‘The Kids Are United’.

The song’s video, made by hundreds of pupils in their ‘bubbles’ in schools across the country, encourages young and old alike to wear odd socks to school or work and celebrate what makes us all unique.  The video features 11-year-old dance sensation, Princess K, sharing fresh dance moves in support of Anti-Bullying Week, as well as Libera boys choir, a hugely popular and internationally renowned choir from South London.

Andy and the band will be sharing their song and discussing bullying in an online assembly to schools across Northern Ireland on the morning of Odd Socks Day, which also features messages of support from Mo Farah, McFly and Anne-Marie.

And despite new restrictions put in place to limit the spread of Coronavirus, Anti Bullying Week will still be jam-packed with online resources, activities, campaigns and more, kicking off with Odd Socks Day which aims to celebrate and embrace our individualities.

Odd Socks Day on Monday 16 November gives children and young people a cost-effective but fun way to embrace all that is different about them and their peers. It’s the first time it has come to Northern Ireland, having enjoyed many successful years in the rest of the UK.

To take part, students simply don odd socks to go to school or college. Those taking part are asked to make a donation if they feel it appropriate to support the ongoing drive to reduce bullying.

Last year Odd Socks Day saw 56% of UK school children take part but this year the campaign hopes to reach even more young people as it makes its way to Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the event, Andy Day, CBeebies and CBBC star and lead singer of Andy and the Odd Socks, who has been supporting Anti Bullying Week for the past three years and has released a charity single to encourage more children onboard, said:

“Because of the pandemic, kids have missed out on so many of the things that they love. Each and every child will have a story to tell about the different ways it has affected them. Now they are back at school, we are all responsible for equipping children with the simple message that we are all different, and that’s a good thing! To bring the message home, we’ve recorded a brilliant new charity song and video especially for Anti-Bullying Week called ‘The Kids Are United’. We spoke to school children all over the country to help write the rap and we hope it inspires everyone to get involved or at the very least to get up and dance!”

Anti-Bullying Week in Northern Ireland is coordinated by the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF), an interagency group managed by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and funded by the Department of Education. The event here this year is supported by Translink and Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI).

Deirdre McAliskey, Assistant Director at the National Children’s Bureau, hosts of the NIABF and organisers of Anti-Bullying Week, said:

“We believe that by channelling our collective power, through shared efforts and shared ambitions, we can reduce bullying together. We all have a part to play in tackling bullying and we are delighted this year to have partnered with Anti Bullying Alliance, our sister organisation in England, and have the support from CBeebies and CBBC star Andy Day, and his band Andy and the Odd Socks, to help inspire children, parents and schools to bring about positive change and a world free of bullying.”

Collectively, the member organisations and sponsors will encourage children and young people to join their classmates in celebrating their differences.

Ms McAliskey continues: “This year, more than ever, we have experienced the inspirational capacity that society has when it comes together to tackle a common challenge. By channelling our power for good, through shared efforts and collective responsibility, we can reduce bullying together. We want children and young people to parents, carers, teachers and politicians to all play a role in uniting against bullying. This is everyone’s business, not just those directly affected.”

Gillian Cuthbert, Chair, Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF), added: “United Against Bullying is a very apt theme for this year’s event and despite everything that’s going on around us, we feel it is more important than ever to be consistent with our efforts to erase bullying:

“This year’s Anti Bullying Week will feature a range of campaigns including Odd Socks Day. This will be a great initiative to allow children to embrace their differences and have discussions about being unique and how we all play a part in solving this puzzle. It’s also a simple campaign that doesn’t put pressure on families and children to spend on expensive fancy dress costumes or something new, just don two mismatched socks and think how our differences make us special.”

Translink has actively supported Anti-Bullying Week for the last 12 years and will once again support this year’s campaign by delivering key messages around the theme of respect in stations, on buses and on trains, as John Thompson, Translink Health and Safety Manager, explains: “This year’s theme really highlights how everyone of us can take responsibility and make positive changes for a more welcoming, tolerant and inclusive society through being United Against Bullying.

“As part of our Translink SPIRIT, we always putting safety first in everything we do. Our stations and services provide an excellent platform to deliver important anti-bullying messages and ensure people know support is out there if and when they need it.

“We’d like to thank everyone who supports Anti-Bullying Week helping it grow every year and we look forward to continuing to play our part in protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of young people, our employees and the wider public right across Northern Ireland especially at this time when safety is so important.

”Please remember when using Translink services to follow four simple but important steps: wear a face-covering, wash/sanitise your hands frequently, use touch-free ticket options and practice social distancing where possible.”

Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI), which has a long association with NIABF and supported its activities over many years, has come on board this year as one of the sponsors of Anti-Bullying Week. Helen McKenzie, Director, SBNI, discusses: “SBNI are delighted once again in 2020 to support the Northern Ireland Anti Bullying Forum in their quest to raise awareness of bullying and reduce the incidence of it. We’ve joined as official sponsors to help ensure that children and young people know they should enjoy both physical and emotional safety whether at home, at play or in education or training.  We look forward to engaging creatively with children and young people in this year’s theme of ‘United Against Bullying’.”

Anti-Bullying Week 2020 runs from 16 to 20 November 2020. To download a free Anti-Bullying Week resource pack and find out more about the anti-bullying creative competition check out endbullying.org.uk or email info@niabf.org.uk

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan

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