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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 March 2007, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Pupils 'should penalise bullies'
Bullying
MPs say the extent of bullying still remains unclear
Pupils should be able to suggest suitable punishments for bullies in their school, according to an MPs' report into bullying.

The Commons Education Select Committee also warned that children should not be excluded from school for retaliating against bullies.

The report called for schools to record all bullying, including homophobic.

But the government said this would be too bureaucratic for head teachers - and would shortly issue new guidance.

The report from MPs said that more research was needed into finding more effective ways to reduce bullying.

There had been "very little evidence" underpinning current guidance - and the lack of accurate, reliable data was a barrier to more effective work, the report said.

The Department for Education and Skills should require schools to record all incidents, said the report into bullying from the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

It added: "Unless specific kinds of bullying are explicitly included in anti-bullying policies, we believe there is a danger that they will not be adequately addressed."

Cyber-bullying

They should mention disability-related, race-related, faith-based and homophobic bullying.

The idea that bullying is in some way character building and simply part of childhood is wrong
Barry Sheerman
Education select committee chairman
And, because of the rise in cyber-bullying, mainly outside schools, policies should also be aimed at parents.

The committee called for pupils to be involved in setting punishments for children who are bullies, such as picking up litter or cleaning up around the school.

And the committee was concerned that pupils who had been bullied could themselves be punished or excluded if they retaliated.

"We would expect previous bullying to be taken into account when deciding on appropriate disciplinary measures," the report urged.

'Bureaucratic'

Committee chairman Barry Sheerman said: "The idea that bullying is in some way character building and simply part of childhood is wrong and should be challenged."

Schools Minister Jim Knight said teachers were about to get stronger legal powers against bullying.

"We support a zero tolerance approach to bullying in schools and we welcome the committee's recognition of our work in this area," he said.

"Next week teachers will get stronger legal powers. These will allow teachers to confiscate mobile phones which have been used to film bullying or text hurtful remarks."

Teachers would also have clear powers on using force to break up fights or restrain violent pupils, he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Bullying has and always will be in schools, it's sadly in some peoples nature to single out the easy targets.
James, UK

The government has asked experts to identify schools with weak anti-bullying strategies and will be issuing updated guidance on homophobic and cyber bullying.

But feedback from head teachers indicated that having to record every incident would be "a huge bureaucratic burden".

The Association of School and College Leaders also rejected the MPs' proposal for separate complaints and appeals procedures.

"This is an unnecessary layer of red tape," said general secretary John Dunford.

But anti-bullying charity Beatbullying argued that for schools not to record each claim of bullying was akin to the police refusing to record the reporting of a crime.

Liberal Democrat committee member Stephen Williams MP said anti-bullying programmes had taken a back seat to political rhetoric about stamping down on discipline and raising standards.

Special needs

Conservative spokesman Nick Gibb said: "Bullying is traumatic for children and its prevalence is a sign of poor behaviour and discipline within a school."

The leader of the National Union of Teachers, Steve Sinnott, said the committee's finding on special educational needs bullying was "deeply disturbing".

"The inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools is being carried out without sufficient preparation and resources."

Mencap and the National Autistic Society had told the MPs that children with SEN might not know when they were being bullied.

This could range from being misled into inappropriate behaviour, to a child being told by another that he would be hit every day, so he believed that was the "rule".

Kidscape director Michele Elliott told the committee: "Teasing is very easy to describe. I can tease you and you can tease me and, if we are enjoying it, that is great.

"If it is causing pain, then that is bullying."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A victim of bullying describes her experiences



SEE ALSO
Schoolboy to face bully charges
14 Feb 07 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Parents urging action on bullying
22 Nov 04 |  Education
Bullied girl turns campaigner
22 Nov 04 |  Education
A career as school bully
16 Nov 05 |  Magazine

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