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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 April 2005, 21:04 GMT 22:04 UK
Why bullies win
Declan Lawn
Panorama Reporter

Victoria Thompson
Vicky Thompson expects to bullied as long as she is in school
Victoria Thompson says that she spends most lunch breaks on her own, in a quiet part of the school, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Often, it's the best time of her school day.

In class, in corridors, and at the school gates, she endures persistent verbal abuse.

"They call me smelly nelly, fat bitch, you need a facelift - sometimes they tell me I should just go and die."

Victoria is fifteen. She has been bullied for years. She expects that for as long as she's in school, she always will be.

Panorama: Why Bullies win
Sunday 10 April 2005, 22:15 BST, BBC One
Every day, in schools across the country thousands of children endure abuse from their peers that most adults would find impossible to cope with. This has been the case for as long as schools have existed, but within the last few years, government, schools, and charities have begun taking the problem much more seriously.

There are probably few people under twenty who don't know about the high profile blue wristband campaign, endorsed by celebrities like Rio Ferdinand, which is sending out the message that bullying is no longer acceptable.

The government has come up with a range a recommendations for schools about how to tackle bullying, and progressive schools are offering bullying victims a great deal of support.

At the heart of all this is a very simple message going out to bullying victims and their families - don't suffer in silence, tell someone.

Who is listening?

Telephone helplines
Anti-Bullying Campaign: 020 7378 1446
Childline: 0800 11 11
Connexions: 08080 013219
Kidscape: 08451 205204
Local Government Ombudsman: 020 7217 4620
Parentline Plus: 08088 002222
Anti-Bullying Network: 0131 651 6100
Samaritans: 08457 909090
The Childrens Legal Centre: 08453 454345
So why is it that for a significant number of children in our schools, telling doesn't help? One leading anti-bullying charity, Kidscape, says that in three quarters of the cases it deals with, schools actually blame the victim instead of tackling bullies.

It seems to be the case that despite all of the latest government guidelines and recommendations, and despite the millions that are pumped into tackling the problem, some victims of persistent bullying feel they are not being listened to when they seek help.

This week's Panorama speaks to several children and their families who claim that schools didn't do enough to stop bullying, and that they felt they had no-where else to turn.

One home learning charity believes that up to 90,000 British school children may have been withdrawn from school by their parents as a direct result of bullying that was not stopped. Panorama speaks to parents who are calling for an independent body with the power to get involved in serious and persistent cases of bullying.

Panorama: Why bullies win
Laura Rhodes
BBC One, Sunday, 10 April 2005 at 22:15 GMT
The programme also features the first full-length national television interview with Michael and Yvonne Rhodes, who claim that school bullying played a role in the death of their daughter, Laura.

They believe that had Laura not suffered persistent bullying at her school, that she would still be alive today. One recent study suggested that about 16 British children take their own lives each year as a direct result of bullying in our schools, but that the true figure might be much higher.

It's in this context that Panorama looks at the specific strategies the government is recommending to help minimise bullying, and looks at how their implementation can vary from school to school. For head teachers, the situation can be very confusing, particularly because some anti-bullying experts are themselves deeply divided on the best way forward.

"No Blame"

One strategy which is growing in influence recommends that bullies should never be punished, even when they are clearly identified as such.

The "No Blame" approach, also known as the Support Group Method, brings bullies together with their peers in a group to discuss allegations of bullying.

The victim who has made the allegation is not in the room, and the idea behind it is that by getting the majority of the group to agree that the bullying is unacceptable, the bullies will feel isolated enough to change their behaviour. The originators of the approach say that if it's implemented right it works every time, but some other anti-bullying experts are deeply opposed to it.

They say that if bullies are identified they should be punished, and that any approach which doesn't blame them doesn't help either the victim or the bully.

The debate is a vocal one, and it's easy to see why teachers can sometimes feel confused about how bullies should be treated by them.

For bullying victims, the various anti-bullying strategies can sometimes feel purely academic. They say that when bullying persists, it can ruin lives. For someone who's the victim of school bullies, telling someone is rarely an easy thing to do.

Panorama looks at whether we are living up to our responsibility to make sure that when they do tell, someone will listen.

Panorama's Why Bullies Win was broadcast on Sunday 10 April 2005 at 22:15 BST on BBC One.

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