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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Gearing up for surge in bullying calls
bullying boys
Many children are vulnerable as the school year starts
A parenting charity is expanding its helpline service to cope with an anticipated demand from parents worried about bullying as the new school year gets under way.

Parentline Plus currently has 300 volunteers answering calls in eight centres, but it is recruiting to boost its numbers for what it says are the busiest bullying months - September and October.

The charity, which offers help and information to people caring for children in England and Wales, is also preparing research on parents' concerns about bullying.

Initial findings from a survey of callers suggest that more than half of a sample of parents who contacted the charity were worried that their child was perpetrating bullying, or had moved from being bullied to bullying others.

The charity expects calls to increase rapidly

Since launching its free helpline a year ago, Parentline Plus has received more than 80,000 calls.

The government is giving it 180,000 to fund this year's expansion.

The charity says bullying can be rife as the new school year starts and pupils adjust to returning to the classroom.

It is also a problem when a new intake of particularly vulnerable pupils joins secondary school.

The charity's early research findings, based on information supplied by 200 callers - half the research sample - indicate that many parents worry about reporting bullying, and believe that schools do not listen to them or support them in dealing with it.

Some parents consider keeping their children off school rather than allowing bullying to continue unchecked.

Children often do not want parents to report bullying, as they fear lack of action by the school will make it worse.

Family circumstances

And many parents feel isolated and unable to talk to others about bullying.

Parentline Plus chief executive Dorit Braun said: "Bullying can only be tackled effectively if parents' views are listened to, and if support for them is included as an integral part of the solution.

"The parents who call us say they feel unheard by education professionals. They tell us that no one asks about their own family circumstances, and how things like separation and divorce or the family moving to a new area may have affected their children and made the bullying worse."

The full research findings will be published in November.

On 16 November, the charity will be running a national conference on parents' concerns about schooling, and in particular, bullying and non-attendance.

It will be aimed at encouraging schools to become more aware of issues affecting children, parents and schools.

Schools Minister Estelle Morris said: "Children need a safe and secure environment in which to learn. Bullying can damage children and parents are often unsure how to help their children to deal with it.

"That's why we are funding Parentline Plus to provide practical advice and support to parents on bullying from September."

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See also:

08 Aug 00 | Education
Legal threats over school bullying
30 May 00 | Unions 2000
Heads launch anti-bullying drive
17 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
Bullying 'rife' in schools
06 Mar 00 | Education
Bullied pupil plans court action
17 Feb 00 | Education
Bullying: Schools' duty to act
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