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The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"The Queen heard stories from volunteers who get training but no reward"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 15:18 GMT
Queen meets 'bully busters'
The Queen talking to a volunteer
The Queen met and congratulated volunteers at a reception at the school
Children who help their fellow pupils beat bullying met the Queen when she visited their school in north London.

Pupils at Duncombe primary school in Holloway, volunteer to become "bully busters", to whom children can turn if they are being bullied.

The volunteers, aged 10 and 11, then speak to the alleged bullies to try to settle disputes and stamp out bullying.
Head teacher Barrie O'Shea
Barrie O'Shea: "Volunteers help in almost every aspect of the school"
They also hold weekly meetings with their headteacher, Barrie O'Shea, to keep him informed of problems reported to them - allowing him to tackle situations that pupils may not be able to deal with themselves.

The Queen visited the school as part of a series of "theme days", which Prince Philip and the Princess Royal are also undertaking.

Wednesday was set aside for Britain's army of unsung heroes to get Royal recognition, with the Royal Family members meeting scores of people involved in voluntary work.

As well as operating the "bully buster" scheme, the school, which has 450 pupils, makes use of volunteers from outside, with as many as 50 volunteers visiting each week.

'Stunningly' excited

It was at the school that the Queen met workers from the organisation CSV (Community Service Volunteers), as well as other pupils who had come in during their half term holiday.

Prince Philip joined the Queen at a school reception celebrating CSV's recruitment of its millionth volunteer.
Bully buster Sarhana Hoque
Bully buster Sarhana Hoque: "I like to think people look up to me"
Mr O'Shea said: "We have a huge number of volunteers who come into the school, including people who give children support with reading, secondary school pupils who help children with maths, mentors for staff, and artists who work on projects in the school.

"The children are themselves volunteers, as those who become bully busters volunteer to do so, and are then very carefully selected for peer mentoring.

"They are able to deal with about 25% of problems by themselves, without staff involvement."

One of the bully busters, Sarhana Hoque, said: "At first there were quite a lot of bullies, but now it's reduced to one or two a week.

"I enjoy it very much. It's nice to know I can help people."

A school spokeswoman added that the bully buster scheme was extremely effective, as "we don't have bullying in the school".

"Sometimes it can be really trivial things that children go to the bully busters about. It helps that they know they can speak to other children about it."

On Wednesday evening, a reception will be held at Buckingham Palace for about 650 volunteers.

Other volunteers involved in the Royal theme day included sixth-form students who run a literacy scheme at Arsenal Football Club.

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See also:

23 Feb 00 | UK
Royal thanks for volunteers
23 Oct 99 | Scotland
Scots 'are willing volunteers'
17 Feb 00 | Education
Bullying: Schools' duty to act
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