Schools that fail victims of bullying must be challenged - Howarth

July 10, 2009 11:39 AM

David HowarthSchools that fail to help bullied youngsters should be able to be challenged with facts compiled by the government, claims Cambridge MP David Howarth.

He wants the government to bring together research that can be used to prevent schools and local authorities ducking their responsibilities towards bullied children.

Mr Howarth also told MPs during a debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday (July 8) that schools should be given advice about the "devastating costs not only of failing to prevent bullying, but of failing to offer effective routes to recovery to children who have been seriously bullied."

He called on the government to do more for the victims of bullying, questioning whether a government White Paper designed to get pupils Back on Track was adequate to meet the needs of bullied children.

The White Paper says that "primary responsibility for good behaviour sits with young people"; but Mr Howarth said that the support group, Beatbullying maintains that one third of school truancies are caused by bullying. In that case, "the central assumption of the government's policy must change", he said.

"The costs of bullying are great to both society and victims," he said. "In some cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. I appeal to the government to do more for victims."

Mr Howarth called the debate after Cambridge charity Red Balloon expressed concerns when Cambridgeshire County Council changed the way in which it was funded.

In the past, the charity received funding direct from the county council to help bullied youngsters; but now funding goes directly to the schools and children are referred by the head teachers.

Mr Howarth and the charity are worried that schools might try to deal with the problem through cheaper, preventative measures rather than with direct help for the victims.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said that the government was hoping to "consult on whether a further duty should be introduced for schools to report all bullying incidents to their local authorities and we will consider whether the types of bullying should be recorded, such as whether it relates to race, sexual orientation or disability."

After the debate, Mr Howarth said: "I was encouraged by the Minister's comments and I am optimistic that this issue will be given the serious consideration it deserves.

"We must make sure that schools and local authorities acknowledge that bullying is a real problem which can have devastating consequences for victims if it is not tackled quickly and efficiently."

Red Balloon Chief Executive Carrie Herbert said: "We were delighted with the way the debate went and, in particular the commitment by the government to provide alternative accommodation for children like the ones helped by Red Balloon.

"I am very pleased that the government is to carry out research into the numbers of bullied children who are self-excluding from schools because it will give us a better idea of what we are actually dealing with."

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