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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
National network to fight bullies
Pupils
More than half of England's pupils say bullying is a problem
Anti-bullying experts are to be introduced to every region of England to help parents, pupils and teachers deal with the problem.

Education minister Ivan Lewis said all forms of abuse and intimidation - including by text message and in internet chatrooms - would be covered.

Government research published last year found more than half of pupils thought bullying was a problem.

Mr Lewis said schools and local authorities must show "no tolerance".

'Crucial'

The experts will be employed by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, an agency which starts work in September with an initial budget of 500,000.

They will work with teachers, schools and local education authorities to promote schemes including the use of "mentoring" by older pupils, counselling and assertiveness training.

I have never discussed this with anyone because I have never known anyone I could trust not to 'tell on me'. Isn't that awful?

The 10 advisers, dealing with each of the areas covered by the government's regional offices, will also help parents deal with extreme cases of bullying.

Schools, meanwhile, will get extra resources and information packs.

Mr Lewis said: "This government's commitment to tackling bullying and all forms of bad behaviour in schools is unprecedented.

"The Anti-Bullying Alliance will support schools and local education authorities as a crucial part of our action to show no tolerance to bullying."

In preparation, 5,000 heads, teachers, pupils and experts have attended conferences to learn anti-bullying techniques.

More than 4,000 schools have agreed to adopt a "no-tolerance" approach.

Dreading school

Research by the Department for Education and Skills and the charity ChildLine last year found 51% of primary and 54% of secondary pupils thought bullying was a problem in their school.

Childline's founder, television presenter Esther Rantzen, will be president of the new alliance.

The National Children's Bureau has been funded by the government to run the agency.

Esther Rantzen told BBC News too many schools were not aware that they had a bullying problem.

"Tragically, there are a number of schools which are in denial.

"Bullying exists in every school at some time.

"To map the situation, they should send out anonymous questionnaires each term and ask children if they have been bullied."

She said there were many ways to tackle the problem, including "buddying" or mentoring schemes.

"There is a big difference between being one of many people being teased and being targeted and every morning going to school with dread because of what is going to happen to you."


We asked you for your experiences of bullying. Here are some of your responses:

Yes - I've been bullied - at work. It doesn't stop with the playground and I think we also need to get that message across.
Fiona, Northern Ireland

Yes, I was bullied every day at senior school, the main ringleader being a policeman's son, ironically. Bullying was in the form of name-calling, damaging my property, assault, threats of assault. But the bullies, nearly 20 years later, are nobodies, and I've gone on to university and done lots of good jobs. I tend to find those individuals laughable these days.
David G, Teesside

I was bullied when I was a child between the ages of 10 and 13. The bullying stopped when I moved school and because I took measures to ensure that I "fitted in" with the in-crowd and became a comedian in class. I can relate when kids don't "tell" because they are already unpopular in their own eyes and don't want to be further ostracised by their peers. So the best thing to do is to brave it or avoid it.

Either way, it makes for a very stressful school life. If I had been approached confidentially, I would most definitely have "told", if I could be guaranteed no after-effects.
Mark, West Sussex

In response to David G, while I cannot comment on you in particular, probably the bullies realised 20 years ago that they were going nowhere and you were - which goes some way towards explaining their actions. I was bullied myself but think we should remember that the bullies are victims too, or a solution will never be found.
Mark W, Wiltshire

I used to go to a Welsh school and, being from Sweden, I was constantly being the butt of all the bullies' jokes. It caused me huge distress and some of the things said were unbearable, and this was only a few years ago. Now I have changed from that little ugly duckling and have flourished. I am now popular and well liked which has improved my life no end. I just wish that I could look back on my school days and have a happy memory, as your childhood is meant to be the best time of your life.
Andreas, Birmingham

I don't like to admit it, but I was most definitely a bully at school and now feel immense remorse at the suffering I caused to the individuals concerned. As I now have a young daughter starting school, it is heartbreaking to imagine the anguish they had to bear on a daily basis. This bullying always occurred when I was in a group of my peers, and stemmed from the strong desire to fit in with them. I perceived it to be a case of "bully or be bullied". Unfortunately, in this grammar school in the 70's, teachers did not discourage this behaviour.
Jon, Guildford

I don't know if I was "bullied" or was a "bully". I certainly indulged in a bit of name-calling and received quite a bit myself, such as "fat boy". But I never worried/worry about it either way. Kids will be kids. It's all part of growing up. Unless you are allowed to be a bit aggressive and competitive then you stand no chance of been able to get on in life. I fear we are trying to be overly PC.
Graham, London

Yes I was bullied at school, quite badly. But I learned to stand up for myself, and made me realise how immoral it is to bully others. I'm not completely sure it was a wholly bad experience.

However, the politics of the playground still exist in some areas of adult life and in the workplace, though at this level it becomes out and out discrimination, and we need legal frameworks in place to remedy it. A classic example of this is height discrimination, in which short people are kept in inferior positions in organisational hierarchies. Just like school, and no laws against it.
Michael, Edinburgh

In response to Mark W, I cannot agree with your statement that "bullies are victims too". That is a sweeping generalisation applied to a very large number of people, all from differing backgrounds and with their own agendas. I was bullied by the class teacher when I was 10 years old. She reserved her "special venom" for me and made sure that the spectacle was witnessed by the whole class of 39. This merely gave every bully in the class the green light to assist her by proxy. I was humiliated daily (and occasionally assaulted) in class and beaten up as a matter of course every evening on my way home from school. The headmaster turned a blind eye and chose to do nothing. The treatment meted out to me has affected my whole life, not the lives of the bullies. How can all of these people be victims? Why should I have sympathy for them?
Carolyn, Devon

Throughout my school life I was picked on or saw others being picked on by teachers as well as other students. The worst time for me though was at secondary school where I was picked on by a teacher during lessons in my first year and bullied daily by boys for three years. I was shy, skinny, bit spotty, wasn't in the "in-crowd" and loved music/playing the piano. Is that why? I ignored them, argued back, everything, but nothing seemed to stop them.

I was at such a low point at the age of 14/15 that I contemplated suicide (even ringing my best friend to say goodbye). It was at that point that I told my parents about the bullying. We were (and still are) very close, but they had no idea because I'd somehow managed to hide it from them.

My Dad sorted it out immediately via the school and that was the end of it. I had always thought the involvement of teachers/parents would make the bullying worse. I wish I hadn't suffered in silence all that time. I'm now in my mid-twenties. I have great family and friends, love my job, music is going well, have just got married and enjoying life.
Jo, London




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's James Westhead
"Despite all the efforts bullying remains a big problem in schools"



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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