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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Helpline calls on bullying rising
Pupils
Many children suffer bullying at school
Increasing numbers of school children are seeking help and advice on how to cope with bullying, a charity says.

Childline has reported a 42% rise in calls to its counsellors - the highest in its 18-year history.

In the 12 months to March this year, more than 31,000 youngsters contacted Childline about bullying, compared with just over 21,000 the previous year.

It is setting up a new foundation with the hope of raising the money to enable all callers to speak to a counsellor.

An increasing number of calls about bullying come from younger children, the charity said.

Almost 8,500 calls to Childline last year were made by youngsters aged 11 and under - up from 5,658 in the previous 12 months.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I find it appalling that increasingly children have to speak to a complete stranger for advice
Hameed, Leeds, England

Around half the children who talked about being bullied said they had experienced name-calling and other forms of verbal abuse, while a third complained of being punched, kicked and pushed around.

A quarter of the young people who called about bullying said they had already told a teacher about the problem but still felt the need for help, the charity said.

The findings come as children prepare to return to school after the bank holiday weekend.

"I can't go to school, I just can't," eight-year-old Billy told his Childline counsellor after jumping off the school bus to make the call.

There is still much to be done
Esther Rantzen, chair of Childline

"As soon as I get to school it starts," said nine-year-old Kirsty.

Childline said bullying not only affected children's self-esteem, but their ability to learn.

Chair of Childline, Esther Rantzen, said: "Bullying wrecks lives. It can not only destroy children's happiness but also seriously damages children's capacity for learning and for enjoying school.

"Our volunteer counsellors tell us that the calls they receive about bullying are some of the most painful they encounter at Childline.

"While many schools have taken positive steps in recent years to acknowledge that bullying exists and to tackle the problem, as Childline's new figures show, there is still much to be done."

The charity is launching a new fundraising initiative, the Childline Foundation, to raise money to help those children most in need.

It aims to raise 1 million in its first year to pay for the training and call costs to allow all the children who call the 0800 1111 helpline to speak to a counsellor.

The foundation will be headed by Dianne Thompson, the chief executive of National Lottery operator Camelot, who was bullied for many years at school.

"For children to acknowledge that they need help for whatever reason is a very brave step," she said.

"To make that call to Childline takes huge courage. Everyone I've spoken to since agreeing to take on this project has either experienced bullying or knows someone who has been a victim of bullying.

"I am hoping to encourage people to look in their hearts and help the Childline Foundation raise the vitally-needed funds to support these children."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"A third of the calls are coming from children under 11"



SEE ALSO:
All schools 'need a counsellor'
01 Dec 03  |  Education
Name-calling 'worst form of bullying'
16 Apr 03  |  Education


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