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Bullies in Lancashire schools need action to prevent them becoming ‘adult bullies’

Posted on - 29th December, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Education, Preston News, Schools
County Hall in Preston, home of Lancashire County Council
County Hall in Preston

School bullies need help to change their ways just like their victims require protection from the abuse, a Lancashire county councillor has said.

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Lizzi Collinge was speaking during a recent County Hall meeting at which it was claimed that some Lancashire children were missing school as a result of the “bullying and intimidation” to which they were being subjected.

The Lancaster East division representative said that she had herself been “a victim of relentless bullying over many years” when she was growing up – but cautioned against ignoring the needs of the perpetrator when dealing with bullying cases.

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The Labour opposition group on Lancashire County Council – of which County Cllr Collinge is a member  – had brought a motion highlighting instances of pupils failing to attend school or dropping out of mainstream education altogether because of bullying.

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While the Conservative cabinet member for education and skills, Jayne Rear, said that there was “no evidence” that either bullying itself or “persistent absence” resulting from it had increased in Lancashire, all councillors swung behind a revised motion that reasserted a “zero tolerance” approach to the problem.

During the debate, County Cllr Collinge said that bullying has a huge educational and emotional impact on the children who experience it, but warned:  “If not corrected, child bullies become adult bullies – [and] adult bullies often become very isolated, very angry, because obviously the real world doesn’t work like school.  There’s nothing sadder…than an adult bully.

“In my experience, too often the focus when bullying [occurs] is on the victim, not the perpetrator.  Obviously, we owe protection to the victims of bullying, but to the children who are bullies, we [also] owe them [a duty] to guide them on to the right path and to change their behaviour.

“They are children, too, and if we want to break that cycle, then bullying behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud,” County Cllr Collinge said.

Her Labour colleague Nikki Hennessy said that she was aware of a bullying case which had begun when the victim was in year 5 at primary school – and so never went on to secondary school and has been home educated since.

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“So she hasn’t had those friendship groups – [and] to have her whole early years just wiped out of friendships is really sad.  This has got to stop,” said County Cllr Hennessy, who represents Ormskirk.

Clayton with Whittle division representative Mark Clifford, who brought the original motion, had called on the authority to record the number of complaints about bullying that are made to its own officers and the regulator, Ofsted.

While the amendment made by the ruling Tory group noted that that information was already compiled, County Cllr Rear said that she had now asked to receive a termly report on all correspondence and complaints received by the authority about bullying in order to ensure that it was monitored “even more closely”.

County Cllr Clifford said that he had been approached by families whose children were “fearful of returning to schools where cases of bullying haven’t been taken seriously or have not been resolved satisfactorily”.

County Cllr Rear said that legislation and national guidance already demanded that bullying is not tolerated.

“Maintained schools must have a policy in place to encourage good behaviour and prevent all forms of bullying among pupils.  This includes when pupils are not on school premises and are not being supervised by a member of school staff.

“Acting on [the] pupil’s voice, listening to their concerns seriously and ensuring school is a safe place for all children are already part of the training that all school staff undertake at the beginning of each academic year or when they begin at a new school.”

According to Ofsted figures for the year to September 2023, 32 percent of Lancashire parents whose child had been bullied either disagreed or strongly disagreed that the school had handled the issue effectively.  That proportion – derived from 4,361 parental responses – mirrored the England average over the same period.

What should I do if my child is being bullied?

Advising parents and carers where to turn if their child is being bullied and they are not happy with the school’s response, County Cllr Rear added:   “If families feel that a school has not taken appropriate steps to resolve the bullying, they should follow the complaints procedure of the school.

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“This usually involves [making] a complaint in writing to the headteacher, then the chair of governors and then the ombudsman, if necessary. Parents can also report the [matter] to Oftsed, who will contact the local authority to investigate to ensure the school has taken [the] necessary action.

“Clearly any bullying is unacceptable and therefore something schools need to be proactive about and react swiftly [to].”

The meeting heard that of the 12 complaints made via Ofsted about Lancashire schools in the first fortnight of December, three were about bullying.  However, investigations by the authority concluded that the “robust response” provided by each school, detailing the interventions they had made and support they had offered, were adequate and so the complaints were not upheld.

“If we feel there is an issue where a school hasn’t responded in the right way, our team will visit the school to address the subject with the headteacher to ensure they are aware of their duty of care and…[how] to improve responses to bullying,” County Cllr Rear explained.

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