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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 12:09 GMT
Bullying policy 'needs shake-up'
Sir Al said early resolution of complaints was crucial
Schools must improve the way they deal with complaints about bullying, England's Children's Commissioner says.

Sir Al Aynsley-Green says all disputes must be settled fairly, supportively and robustly.

It follows complaints by parents of shortcomings in the system for resolving such matters.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said schools should ensure children and their parents feel their complaints are taken seriously.

The Children's Commissioner commends the focus of anti-bullying policy in many schools but says there is evidence flaws in the complaints procedure.

Families who have taken unresolved bullying disputes through the system say it lacks transparency, accountability and effective redress for all those involved.

Bullying impacts on a child's emotional wellbeing and the process of resolving incidents can disrupt their school and home lives
Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Children's Commissioner

Sir Al proposes a two-stage process to take forward improvements to the complaints system, with a mid-process review by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to examine progress and any further emerging evidence.

He said: "The majority of schools and governors work hard to prevent bullying and support children and young people who are affected.

"We do not underestimate the difficulties of dealing with school bullying and we applaud the dedication shown by many schools in safeguarding their pupils.

"Bullying impacts on a child's emotional wellbeing and the process of resolving incidents can disrupt their school and home lives.

"A clear procedure, which encourages early resolution, is crucial in ensuring that individual children are safeguarded and all those involved in the process, including schools, are supported and can learn from the process."

'Peer mentoring'

Under the current system, not all school governors will hear a complaint about bullying as it may not be treated as a formal complaint to trigger their involvement.

A parent or child raising a complaint can appeal beyond the governors to the local authority or the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families but their power to become involved is limited.

The recommendations by 11 MILLION, the organisation led by the Children's Commissioner, calls for the Secretary of State, local authorities, schools and children's services to work together to improve the complaints system.

This week the DCSF announced 3m of new money for a range of new "peer mentoring pilots" to help prevent young people from being bullied and to support those who are bullied.

A DCSF spokesman said: "Bullying, in any form, should not be tolerated. "Schools must create a climate in which bullied children, and their parents, feel that their complaints about bullying will be properly considered and we are constantly striving to understand bullying better and how best to tackle it."

"We have received the report and will respond in due course."

Sir Al is calling for:

  • Families to have a right to a hearing before a governors' committee and the opportunity to be supported by an independent presenting officer
  • Universal access to independent mediation services to settle disputes between parents, children and schools
  • Subject to the conclusions of the mid-process review, an independent complaints panel in each local authority area to act as the final appeal body from the governors
  • An extension to the Local Government Ombudsman's role in order to consider issues relating to internal discipline in schools.
  • Anti-bullying week, which begins on November 19, is being organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance and this year's focus will be on cyber-bullying, schools and the community.

    More cash to beat school bullies
    15 Nov 07 |  Education
    Putting a stop to the cyberbullies
    25 Sep 07 |  Technology


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