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The BBC's Mike Baker
"Government guidelines have abandoned the former no blame approach"
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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 08:51 GMT
Tackling bullying in and out of school
clip from government anti-bullying video
A video aims to drive home the message
Head teachers are getting new advice on tackling bullying not only on their own premises but also outside school.

Bullying is wrong for whatever reason; it hurts and has to be tackled

David Blunkett
A revised guidance pack for schools in England has been published by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

Launching the pack at a conference organised by Family Service Units, Mr Blunkett said: "For those who are bullied and their friends the message is simple - tell someone, don't suffer in silence.

"It is important that teachers and heads take seriously accusations of bullying from pupils and parents.

'Bullying hurts'

"The message needs to go loud and clear to the bullies: Bullying is unacceptable, it won't earn you respect."

He added: "There will also be cases where bullying takes place outside the school.

"The head teacher should be ready to take appropriate action to make clear that this is not acceptable and where necessary to involve other heads and the police.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett: Tackling "ingrained thuggery"
"Bullying should not be accepted as a normal part of school life and it must be challenged.

"Every pupil has the right to expect to be able to learn in a safe environment - and not to be bullied just because they are seen to be a little different."

But Mr Blunkett said problems could usually be resolved within the school by getting other pupils to challenge the bullies or by having a very clear and consistent policy.

"But where there is severe and persistent bullying, particularly involving violence or sexual assault, heads will need to consider more serious disciplinary measures including suspension or permanent exclusion," he said.

Concern over appeals

And he said he had made it clear to local authority appeal panels that they should not override head teachers' decisions in such cases.

Head teachers have complained that their expulsions are often overturned on appeal.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of School Masters Union of Women Teachers, said that despite Mr Blunkett's claim to have given heads more power to expel pupils, his union had still authorised members in 14 schools to take industrial action in protest at being ordered to teach violent and disruptive children.

Nigel de Gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy is sceptical about the guidelines
"While I welcome David Blunkett's statement today, there is a huge gulf between uttering words on the national stage and putting them into practice in schools up and down the country," said Mr de Gruchy.

The more schools took on the burden of bullying, the more they would be blamed for a problem which could never fully go away.

"The danger of loading more responsibility onto schools is that society will surrender its responsibility," he said.

'Family responsiblity'

"And the first responsibility has to be within the family and among individuals."

Schools could not patrol housing estates and buses, Mr de Gruchy added, citing a recent court case where a High Court judge ruled to that effect.

In the case of Leah Bradford-Smart, 19, who tried to sue her local education authority for negligence after she was bullied in and around school, Mr Justice Garland said the school "did not have a duty of care for events which had taken place outside its premises".

The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Doug McAvoy, said it was in the interests of teachers as well as all young people that bullying was eliminated.

"Happy children, confident of their own security, do well at school," he said.

'Overburdened' teachers

But he said teachers needed time to tackle bullying and end injustices, and were overworked already.

And the shadow education secretary, Theresa May, said Mr Blunkett had not gone far enough.

"He must accept the Conservatives' "free schools" policy which gives head teachers the power to exclude disruptive pupils without fear of fines and penalisation in league tables," she said.

If schools have adopted a no-blame approach, then they're contributing to the problem

Michelle Elliot, Kidscape
The new guidelines offer examples ways in which some schools are helping bullied children by getting the subject out in the open, breaking the taboo of talking about it and getting the whole school involved to make anti-bullying policies work.

They say those bullied must be listened to. Bullies must be confronted with the distress and disruption to learning they cause to pupils victimised for such things as perceived sexuality, disability and race.

The killing in November of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor in Peckham, south London has again highlighted the problem of bullying.

Damilola had complained of being bullied at his school, Oliver Goldsmith Primary, and parents in the area have petitioned for action on the issue.

  • BBC News Online is hosting a forum with strongman "Big Dave" Gauder, who was bullied when younger and who now tours schools talking to children about the problem. He will be answering your questions at 1330GMT on Thursday.

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