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Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 04:06 GMT
Boost for bullying mentor scheme
Boy being bullied
Peer mentoring schemes report significant drops in bad behaviour
A pupil mentoring scheme which aims to tackle bullying and keep children safe in school has been given a cash boost.

The scheme which allows children to report bullying to elected older pupils who work with teachers is being rolled out to one in 10 schools in England.

The 480,000 investment comes at the start of anti-bullying week in which schools, charities and other bodies join forces against school bullying.

As many as one in four children report being bullied at school at some time.

The pupil mentoring scheme works by getting the school to elect pupils to become representatives who take on a responsibility for helping teachers maintain good behaviour.

'Forward thinking'

The pupils selected are usually older and well-respected by their peers, and are seen as suitable role models for younger children.

They will often wear specially identifiable clothing or badges and will act as go-betweens to resolve conflicts between students.

Crucially they allow pupils, who may not wish to talk to a teacher directly, to report incidents of bullying to them instead.

Schools which use peer mentoring schemes report substantial falls in aggressive behaviour with up to 85% disputes solved, according to the NSPCC which runs the scheme for the Department for Education and Skills.

Lindsay Gilbert, who runs the ChildLine Partnership with Schools, said the it was so successful because the pupils set it up and ran it themselves in the way that suited them.

"Young people are naturally concerned about their friends and want to help when they can.

"What we do is give them the tools to do so."

These schemes have a good track record of improving pupils' behaviour
DfES spokesman

A DfES spokesman said the scheme was innovative and forward thinking.

This was why it was investing 480,000 and commissioning additional resources to expand it to more than 60,000 pupils a year, he said.

"These schemes have a good track record of improving pupils' behaviour and encouraging them to listen and be respectful to their peers," he added.

This year's anti-bullying week focuses on the role of the bystander in a bid to encourage more pupils to take a stand against the bullies.

A "bystander" is someone who does not become actively involved in a situation where someone else requires help.

The campaign argues: "Bystanding is not passive; witnesses to bullying play very different roles, some more active than others, and these contribute significantly to what takes place.

"'Doing nothing' does have a real impact on events and may cause harm."

According to the NSPCC, bullying is one of children and young people's main concerns and accounts for a quarter of all calls to the charity's hotline ChildLine.

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