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Tuesday, March 2, 1999 Published at 15:51 GMT


Education

Schools get anti-bullying network

Bullying can involve often complex relationship issues

A network is being set up to tackle bullying in Scotland's schools.

The Anti-Bullying Network will use a variety of means - including a telephone helpline and a Website - to spread good ideas and materials to pupils, teachers and parents throughout the country.

The announcement was made by the Scottish Education Minister, Helen Liddell, who said it should allow for a more co-ordinated and effective approach to the "menace" of bullying which could lead to children feeling isolated and disillusioned.


Bullying expert Andrew Mellor: "The best we might do is to halve the problem"
"Bullying causes a great deal of distress to both pupils and families and we must do everything we can to stamp it out," she said as she launched a poster and badge campaign for a "Friends Against Bullying" scheme at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh.

"School years are a very important time for all children. It should be an enjoyable and challenging period of their lives. Sadly for some it is a time of torment where their development falters because of the treatment they receive from bullies.

'Misery'

"All the good work of teachers can be undermined if a pupil is terrified of going to school because their life is being made a misery."


"Involving youngsters themselves is the key"
The network will be run by Moray House Institute of Education in Edinburgh, which has been a teacher training centre for more than 160 years. The institute won the contract through a competitive tendering process.

It will be managed by Prof Pamela Munn, who has established national and international contacts in the fields of school discipline and anti-bullying developments, and should be up and running by Easter.

Andrew Mellor, Principal Guidance Teacher at Dalry School, Galloway, will be helping to run it. He has been working on the issue since the late 80s and was the Scottish Office's anti-bullying officer from 1993-95.

"Some work that is being done in schools is being effective in reducing the level of bullying," he said. "What we want to do is to find the good examples and make the information about that easily available to those schools that feel they want to do more.

Safe atmosphere

"There is no one simple solution that will suit all circumstances and I think schools have to learn from others but also take part in a developmental process because we do not yet know how to deal with all types of bullying effectively.

"The most optimistic studies suggest that if you work very, very hard and do everything that we know how to do at the moment, you might reduce the level of bullying schools by up to 50% - that still leaves an awful lot to be dealt with."

Mr Mellor says that, rather than tackling a problem once it arises, the ideal is to create an atmosphere in which pupils feel safe and secure and bullying does not happen in the first place.

"You have to get young people themselves involved in developing ideas about how bullying can be dealt with. If you ask youngsters they've got lots and lots of ideas."

The network will include:

  • a Website and telephone information line
  • a national conference to share effective strategies and raise awareness of the work of the network
  • a series of workshops which include an overview of anti-bullying strategies and examples of good practice at particular schools
  • encouraging local authorities to build on these workshops and run their own events
  • network project workers will produce additional supporting materials to complement existing resources.
"Moray House in Edinburgh have a good deal of experience of networking projects and I am very confident that they will be able to use this experience and expertise to provide a valuable service for teachers, parents and pupils. This will allow them to tackle the problem of bullying head-on," Mrs Liddell said.





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