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Call to 'overhaul' bullying in schools across Wales

Jul 19, 2017, 10:38:03
By BBC News

A "radical overhaul" is needed to tackle school bullying, the children's commissioner for Wales has said.

Sally Holland said some schools were reluctant to address the issue, for fear of looking bad.

A report has warned that a lack of consistency in handling complaints leaves some children feeling isolated.

The Welsh Government said all forms of bullying should be tackled vigorously and a school behaviour policy should be in place by law.

But Dr Holland said in some cases, the anti-bullying guidance sits on shelves in schools and does not appear to have been read.

"I want to see guidance which is really useful, that builds on the experiences of children and gives them some solutions but also tells schools how to monitor it and not to be scared of monitoring it," she said.

"Some professionals were telling us there's a kind of reluctance to record bullying - they're reluctant to make their school look bad, that there may be some kind of league table or something like that. Of course that's not what I want to see.

"I want to see schools having an honest conversation with their student population and the community around it, about how they're tackling bullying in school and what they're going to do about it."

The report said there was confusion over what constitutes bullying and a lack of consistent recording.

These issues were raised three years ago by the schools inspectorate Estyn, yet have still not been addressed.

"Some things have changed, but yes, there are some fundamentals we still need to get right and of course it's frustrating, it's frustrating for children too, of course," said Ms Holland.

"We do need to be recording bullying and make sure the best practice, which we know is out there, is available to schools.

"Everyone should be owning this issue and everyone should be involved in tackling it. Let's not keep it in the corner as an embarrassing aspect of school life. Let's accept that it happens and positively move forward to tackle it."

Two thousand children and young people contributed to the report "Sam's Story", asking for their experiences of bullying, along with the views of 300 professionals.

Children highlighted differences like ethnicity, poverty, disability and gender stereotyping as key issues for bullies and said parents were often unresponsive.

Dr Holland has now called on the Welsh Government to place a statutory duty on schools to record all incidences and types of reported bullying, and to come up with a clear definition of bullying.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We will consider the children commissioner's report which will feed into our review of anti-bullying guidance.

"We do not tolerate any bullying in the Welsh education system. We expect schools and education services to make it clear that all forms of bullying are entirely unacceptable and to tackle all incidents vigorously, ensuring that pupils are properly supported.

"All schools in Wales must, by law, have a school behaviour policy in place. Effective strategies to tackle bullying should be central to this policy and put into practice by everyone in the school."