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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November 2004, 12:14 GMT
Q&A: Bullying
One in five parents has a child who has been bullied in the past year, a survey of 1,600 parents suggests. What measures are in place to stop the bullies and what should worried parents do?

Q: What constitutes bullying?

Bullying can take various forms, from name calling and teasing to more serious threats, physical violence and extortion. Causing damage to someone's belongings, leaving pupils out of social activities deliberately and spreading malicious rumours are also considered to be forms of bullying. More recently, pupils experience bullying via text messages on their mobile phones or via e-mails.

Q: What measures are in place to counteract bullying?

All schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy, which should be used to reduce and prevent bullying. It is a document that sets out how the school deals with incidents of bullying. Parents have a right to know about and see this policy.

Q: What can parents do to help in the fight against bullying?

Parents should watch out for signs that their child is being bullied or is bullying others. Parents and families are often the first to detect that a problem exists. They should contact the school immediately.

Q: What should parents do if their child is being bullied?

It is best to talk with the child about his or her experience and make a note of what they tell you, particularly who was involved, what happened and how often the bullying has occurred. Youngsters should be encouraged to report any further incident to a teacher. Parents themselves may find it helpful to appointment to see their child's class teacher or form tutor. Young people should be reassured that they have done the right thing by talking to some one about the bullying.

Q: How should parents approach teachers about the problem?

Parents should stay calm and remember that the teacher may have no idea that the child is being bullied or may have heard conflicting accounts of an incident. They should be as specific as possible about what has happened, giving dates, places and names of other children involved. Then make a note of what action the school intends to take and stay in touch with the school, letting teachers know if things improve or get worse.

Q: What should parents do if they feel the school is not taking the problem seriously?

Parents should check the school's anti-bullying policy to see if agreed procedures are being followed. If particularly concerned, they should make an appointment to discuss the matter with the head teacher and keep a record of the meeting. If this does not help, they could write to the chair of governors to highlight their concerns. The local education authority could also be contacted.

Q: What should parents do if they think their child is bullying others?

Parents should talk with their child and explain that what he or she is doing is unacceptable behaviour. Other members of the family should be discouraged from bullying behaviour or from using aggression to get what they want. Parents may want to make an appointment to see their child's class teacher or form tutor to discuss how they and the school can stop him or her from bullying others.

Parents needing further support and information can ring the helpline at Parentline plus (Freephone 0808 800 2222) or other local and national support groups.

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