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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday February 28, 2005

BULLYING

Bullying reconstruction
Many children are bullied at some point during their school career

It's a common issue everywhere, with almost all children experiencing it at some point during their school lives - bullying.

Inside Out discovers how an innovative, modern-day approach to try to encourage children to come forward and speak out against bullies, has been pioneered – right here in the West Midlands.

It is estimated that around half of all secondary school children and a quarter of primary school children were bullied last year alone.

Around 1,500 children have been counselled by Childline West Midlands about bullying in the last 12 months.

The figures are shocking, but what is even more frightening is that for some children, bullying can get so bad they feel there is no way out.

Schoolyard scares

Ross Tonks
Seven-year-old Ross Tonks was badly bullied at school

Like many children, being bullied at school was a daily occurrence for seven-year-old Ross Tonks.

He says, "I was scared and frightened to go to school - I didn't want to go.

"He was there all the time - pulling faces, calling me names and hitting me.

"I was just thinking, 'what's he going to do to me?'"

Ross's mum Rosemary realised her son was being badly bullied after she noticed a dramatic change in his behaviour.

She recalls, "Ross was a lovely boy - he was outgoing and he would join in and have a go at anything.

"He started to go really quiet and he was coming home with lots of bruises below his knees, but he said they were just from playing football.

"We started to realise, 'this can't just be from football,' when he came home with more and more bruises further up his body."

Ross's mother Rosemary Tonks
“I didn't know what to do, I would put my arms around him and love him but it wasn't enough.”
Rosemary Tonks

After 18 months of continuous bullying, it all got too much for Ross to bear.

Ross took drastic action to try and escape the bullying - he tried to kill himself.

"I ran into the kitchen and got a knife from the drawer - I did it because I didn't want to be here any more."

Fortunately Rosemary intervened before anything happened.

She remembers how shocked she was to realise how bad things had become for her son:

"While I stood there I saw the seven years of his life actually flash in front of me. Then it hit me - he wants to commit suicide.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, this is how bad the bullying has got, that he doesn't want to live any more.'"

Time to take action

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Cake
Deputy Chief Constable Derek Cake thinks the text messaging service will be a success

But the West Midlands is fighting back - Warwickshire Police is the first force in the country to use child-friendly technology to tackle the growing problem of bullying in schools.

The rising numbers of children who own mobile phones has given bullies another way to intimidate their victims, but now the same device can be used to speak out.

With the launch of the first Mobile Phone Text Messaging Service, children can now text in anonymously, if they are being bullied or have become victims of anti-social behaviour.

And with the rising numbers of children who own mobile phones, Warwickshire Police are confident that this initiative will prove to be very effective.

"The scheme enables young people to use their mobile phones to text a message to a confidential line," Deputy Chief Constable Derek Cake explains.

"We can then pass the message on to the appropriate authorities.

"It's an additional means for children to contact the authorities without having to walk into an office.

"It is nice and simple to do and I would encourage young people to use this service."

Adrienne Katz
“Young people daren't tell people what is going on for fear of retaliation.”
Adrienne Katz

Another way of tackling the bullying problem is to make sure children know where to go to get advice or to report an incident.

Adrienne Katz from the Anti-Bullying Alliance is just one person who is there to help children who are being bullied.

She explains, "It is clear that we have to address a trust factor.

"For the police to be effective they have to be told, and they have to have built some trust."

Tackling the problem

The government has identified bullying as one of their most important issues, which is why they've recruited Radio 1 DJ Emma B amongst other celebrities to push the anti-bullying message.

Emma B says, "The way in which people get bullied is developing as technology develops.

Radio 1 DJ Emma B in the studio
Radio 1 DJ Emma B is among a whole host of celebrities backing the government campaign

"They can be really insipid, some of the things that they do - like kids videoing people being beaten up on their mobile phones and then texting it around to their friends."

Footballer Rio Ferdinand and singer Natasha Bedingfield are just some of the big names lending their image to a new campaign which aims to hit the anti-bullying message home to kids.

But despite the government's best efforts, bullying is still going on, and it seems the key to tackling the problem is to find out why.

An anonymous bully told Inside Out that she became a bully to get power. She explains:

"I was getting into fights because someone had said something and it had got back to me.

Bullying - The Facts

Bullying is defined as deliberately hurtful behaviour, such as name-calling or even physical harassment.

Almost half of all secondary school children and one in four primary school children admit to having been the victim of bullying.

More than 20,000 children and young people called ChildLine about bullying last year.

Almost three out of four children who called ChildLine were being bullied by a group rather than a single person.

More positive figures show that four out of five children will eventually ask for help.

Source: ChildLine Online

"My mates'd say, 'just give her a whack, y'know.'

"When I was fighting I was angry but I didn't feel anything," she says.

"Afterwards all my friends would come up and praise me for it and I felt good, I'd walk away with a smile on my face."

Fortunately this bully has now realised the consequences of her actions.

"I feel really guilty now, I wish I hadn't done it.

"If I could turn back time now and go back to school I wouldn't have done half the things I did, I wouldn't have been a bully."

Moving forward

Ross has had to move schools to escape the bullies.

And, for Ross and his family, their experiences will stay with them for a very long time, as his mum explains:

"We still live with it day after day - it is still there, it still sits in his mind.

"It's a long way from over for us."

Sources of help and support

ChildLine
Freephone: 0800 1111

24-hour confidential advice line staffed by trained counsellors

The Samaritans
08457 90 90 90
Call the Samaritans if you need to talk to someone in confidence. They are available 24 hours a day.

BBC Bullying Support

But police in the West Midlands are looking to the future, when they hope their measures to encourage children to come forward in confidence will help keep the problem under control.

"When you look towards the future we want to provide everything possible for young people to tell us what is going on in their own society," says Deputy Chief Constable Derek Cake.

Experts hope that the problem can be reduced even if it cannot be stamped out completely, as Adrienne Katz explains:

"We can never totally eradicate bullying but I would love to see the level of victimisation heavily reduced."

And as a former victim of bullying, even Ross has an important message for anyone who is bullying someone else:

"Why do you keep on hurting other people, why don't you just stop doing it?"

If you have been affected by any issues in this article and need further information, support or advice, you can contact in confidence; The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or ChildLine on 0800 1111.

See also ...

On the rest of Inside Out
Boot camp for out of control teens

On bbc.co.uk
BBC Schools - Bullying
Radio 1 - Onelife Bullying campaign

On the rest of the web
The Anti-Bullying Alliance
Childline - Bullying
Warwickshire Police Text Messaging Service

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Emma-louise
I realli feel 4 any1 who is being bullied i was bullied throughout my school life and its really hard to get over it, i was in primary school and can just remember being called names and been given a black eye by a boy, i eventually after 3/4 years told my parents and they moved my school, secondary school wasnt that much better there was always some one there to make me upset and put me down and hurt me, but im at college now and just have finally learnt that there are people out there who will listen to my problems and they realli help, my best friend is always there he looks after me and i know he will listen and not laugh. so any1 who is being bullied speak out other wise it just gets worse.

Adrienne Katz
It is enormously helpful that this programme has encouraged people to bring the problem of bullying out into the open like this. Essentially secretive, many people even deny it is going on. But the testimonies of Ross and Carl above, are dreadful proof that we must all do everything we can to end this. To head of year Margaret Smith who asks why she can't contact me - I am working across the region with local authorities, rather than on individual cases. My role is to share good practice. Every school received a pack in November detailing effective approaches to tackling bullying - which should be whole school policies. The pack introduced all the regional coordinators - not really tsars! It also gave contact details. Birmingham Education Welfare Service and the Health Education Service are about to launch the new revised schools pack which I can recommend. If you'd like to contact me I'd be happy to try and help your school. All Anti Bullying Alliance contact details are on www.ncb.org/aba and on the newsletter I've sent to all those who joined the network. Any school is welcome to join the network. Anti Bullying Alliance for West Midlands.

Noreen Simpson
I found last nights programme quite insightful, with some good ideas from Warwickshire about tackling the problem. However, I think there is a great need for the problem of bullying to be more widely addressed within our schools and communities. Paper policies around anti-bullying have little impetous. Policies should be an ethos and philosophy which runs through the core and centre of every staff member and pupil within that school. Within our communities, ASBO's for instance, have not made a huge difference to people feeling threatened within their own homes, young people are criminalised and not seen as victims of sociological factors perhaps. What we do know about bullying is for those affected, it can leave permanent psychological scars which are taken into adult life. Bullying affects self-esteem and can lead to distress self-harming, oppositional/defiant behaviour or even suicide. The long term effects on our children's mental health are numerable. Can we afford to ignore this social problem any longer? And if so, at what cost? School's need directives, parent's need constructive advice, and pupil's need to learn of the damage bullying causes to people and their lives. A clear message is required, that bullying of any kind is wrong and is not and will not be tolerated.

Cllr Sylvia Wright
As a campaigner (local group F.A.M.E. and national group MAST SANITY) for the precautionary approach recommended by Sir William Stewart (updated recently) to be adopted, especially for children, I am alarmed at the continued targetting of our young people by the mobile phone industry. This report does nothing to reiterate the official message we have had from the Government, in fact it goes against the important advice that children should not be using mobile phones. If mobile phones were banned in schools this would go a long way to reducing the misery caused by bullies who are using them as a weapon. Science is telling us that aggression in children can be caused by EMF emissions, so the very thing which could be causing the bullies to act as they do is being perpetuated by someone who should be looking to protect ALL of our children.

rebekah taylor
I know just how they feel because i am on of those bein bullied and my teacher just doesn't care - my parents have even contacted my head of year but she does nothing. I live in Tunstell with my mum and brother

Mrs Roseleen Fowler
I watched the programme last night with great interest. During the day i had spent time trying to move my daughter to another school after three and a half years bullying. A long time you might think and why i had i taken so long to move her? We tried our daughter goes to a catholic school in coventry where my husband is the school caretaker and we actually live on the school site. we tried to moe our daughter last year to another catholic school but soon as we gave our address there was no places yet other children of the same school year were admitted to the school after.the last incident occured last wednesday it was supposedly dealt with by the school but because she had told the teacher the name calling and verbal abuse started, our child has not been to school since she was phsically sick and again resumed that quietness that 11 year olds shouldnt have. I kept her off school thusday and friday hoping that by monday she would be ok. Sunday night she was hysterical there was no way we could send her back we were scarred that she would revert to last years self harm when she cut all her hair off and cut up all her clothes because they called her fat and ugly. We had no choice this time but to go to another school this time we didnt bother witha catholic school. I made an appointment to see the head who also asked me why had we not moved her before . The trouble is we never moved her because we know the trouble it will cause with my husbands job how will it look if the school caretaker has to take his child from a school due to bullying? My husband also suffers bullying at school from the head teacher, he is not the only one 5 members of staff left last year due to heavy handed tactics from the head. we know our lives will be hell from now on but this time we had no choice our child had to come first

Aimee
I know the family personally and I think their lovely. No one should be doing this kind of thing I think bullies should be sent to boot camp!

Adrian Tonks
A good positive measure of the introduction of the Warwickshire Police text messaging service. Maybe if there was something in place when Ross was being bullied then his torment would not have lasted so long. Many parents like Ross's have no one to turn to as scools and LEA's turn their backs on the problem, and dismiss any problems with bullying within their schools. The problem lies mainly with the schools and the heads themselves for not admitting the problems in the first instance. Perhaps the solution lies with the goverment pressuring LEA's to act more responsibly in this growing concern. Thankfully Ross has a new start now and a life to look forward to.

Karen gerrard
My 14 year old daughter is being bullied again by the same girl who bullied her in primary school. Today she wouldn't go to school and so at last the school have warned the girl involved, but why can't that happen the first time? I hope my daughter will go to school tomorrow as her education is important, but her safety and well being is more important. More should be done in schools about bullying and it needs to be sorted as soon as it is first reported.

carl tomlinson
thank you BBC for putting this article on inside out. i have been bullied since year 1 at least twice a day and i am in year 7 now!. it is just overwhelming and i feel like ross tonks.

Margaret Smith
As Head of Year 8 in a large Birmingham secondary comprehensive school, I deal with at least one incidence of bullying each day. It is disappointing that I have had no contact or information from the 'bullying tsar', Adrienne Katz. How exactly is she managing the way schools tackle bullying? How are students, staff and parents able to contact her? Would she like to visit our school?

Vanesha
u should tell the teacher about what your going through or your mother or father and tell people to give you advice on it & if someone threatens u tel someone anyone that you can trust!

janet thompson
my son was bullied for many years at first he would not tell anyone. now at the age of 15 he doesnt go to school he feels they have let him down and he stills suffers mentally.the schools need to realise and except that this is a problem and needs to be dealt with otherwise it will only get worse rather then better.



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