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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 18:22 GMT
Helping schools tackle bullying
Police at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School in Peckham, south London
Union leader calls for closer police-school links
The fatal stabbing of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor has raised again the emotional issue of bullying at school.

The boy's mother said he had been bullied and that she had raised her concerns with teachers.

John Bangs of the National Union of Teachers says the big issue is how to protect children outside of school.

A union survey had found that children were particularly vulnerable in areas of high "stress" - such as the North Peckham Estate, where 20,000 hypodermic needles had been found during clearance work as part of its renovation.

"This is a school surrounded by an estate where there's enormous social deprivation and pressures," he said.

Links

There was a need to look at links between police and schools and the kind of support received by such a school, which was often the centre of the community.

He said there had been a lot of "positive developments" with regard to bullying in recent years.

"For instance there has been guidance both at local level and from government," he said.

"A lot of concentration has been placed on children being given the ability to try to sort out bullying themselves, within a structured environment within schools."

This included "pupil parliaments" and "circle time", where children gather round to talk about the issue.

Policies required

"We need to give schools, especially schools like the one in Southwark, time and space to try to sort out the pressures and problems that come in to them from the community and are transmitted, in a sense, through the children in that school."

The 1998 School Standards Act says that a headteacher "shall determine measures ... to be taken with a view to" among other things, "encouraging good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils".

The message to pupils is not to suffer in silence but to report any bullying they experience or witness to staff or to an older pupil they can trust.

In some schools effective use has been made of trained pupil counsellors who can offer advice to bullied pupils in confidence.

At Duncombe primary school in Holloway, north London, pupils can volunteer to become "bully busters" to whom others can turn for help.

The head teacher, Barrie O'Shea, says they are able to deal with about 25% of problems by themselves, without staff needing to get involved.

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See also:

17 Feb 00 | Education
Bullying: Schools' duty to act
23 Feb 00 | Education
Queen meets 'bully busters'
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