Report finds Brymore School had 'bullying culture'
A Somerset school has been criticised for having a "culture of bullying" in which teachers condoned older boys pushing and punching younger ones.
Some pupils at Brymore School in Cannington had a morning bell rung in their ears and were made to do long runs up a hill or face punishment.
A county council report said a teacher was suspended but has been reinstated.
The boys' boarding school says staff have received extra training and a new acting head teacher has been appointed.
Pupils were encouraged to report bullying, a spokesman added.
Brymore School specialises in farming. The state pays for the tuition but parents pay boarding fees.
'Rough and tumble'
The report, seen by BBC Somerset, said the school had accepted there was a "natural pecking order" within the school.
A survey of pupils found Year 9 students were "genuinely frightened" of Year 11 boys, and believed that if they revealed those concerns to staff they would be passed on to the older boys and they would be singled out for further bullying.
The report said: "Students appear to be hit by other older pupils and this is accepted as part of the 'rough and tumble' of school life. It is, however, not appropriate."
It added: "There has been a culture of bullying and oppressive behaviour within the school for some considerable time.
"There still remains a culture of bullying behaviour, sometimes being accepted and condoned by some groups of students and staff."
Students also said that food given to them by their parents was often taken by house staff or stolen by other students.
The council conducted an anonymous survey into attitudes among pupils, parents and teachers to bullying at the school.
However, there are several references to an incident in which a staff member opened the results of one of these questionnaires and shouted at a pupil because of what they had written.
The report found that:
•37% of pupils did not think all students were treated fairly
•28% did not think they could trust most adults in the school
•67% said they almost always or always felt safe at school
•43% did not think teachers would know what to do if the student was unhappy or needed help
The school's chair of governors Barbara Drakeford said: "We accept the findings in the report but I do challenge how serious the bullying is.
"There's always bullying in schools where you've got a group of boys, but it's not a school where bullying is a major problem."
She said a separate survey that spoke to pupils, staff and parents found only 4% of students said they did not think the school was a "happy and caring" place.
Ms Drakeford added that it was "impossible to keep everyone happy" and that there would inevitably be some complaints and disagreements among pupils.
"The school that I know is where older boys are very supportive of younger boys," she said.
"The school I know is a very caring, supportive school where all of the members of staff are there for the boys' welfare.
"Probably I would say 97% of the boys are really happy here and they are not complaining about bullying situations."