Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Training to beat Bullying: First national survey estimates over 16,000 childr...

Training to beat Bullying: First national survey estimates over 16,000 childr...: "A very interesting read with some alarming facts.... In August 2010 Red Balloon Learner Centre Group commissioned the first national surv..."

First national survey estimates over 16,000 children are absent from school due to severe bullying

A very interesting read with some alarming facts....

In August 2010 Red Balloon Learner Centre Group commissioned the first national survey to ascertain the number of young secondary school children aged between 11 and 15 absent from school because they had been subjected to severe bullying.  The research was undertaken by NatCen, Britain’s largest independent social research organization, and was funded jointly by Red Balloon Learner Centre Group, the Foyle Foundation and the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA). Its findings are dramatic. 

The report estimates that of the six million young people who are in Years 7 – 10 and who attend a state school bullying is the main reason given for persistent long-term absence in between 13,400 and 19,600 cases. This research is the first of its kind to seek out the number of children self-excluding from school as a result of severe bullying. All previous research about bullying has focused on children within schools.

Questionnaires were sent to two groups of parents whose children were absent from school and whose absence was likely to be due to bullying.  The first involved children who are frequently absent from school, the second those who were home educated.

Commenting on the Report, Dr Carrie Herbert, Founder and Chief Executive, Red Balloon Learner Centre Group said:  “ This research has given a well-founded estimate of how many children are unable to go to school because they have been so badly bullied. We are indebted to the Foyle Foundation and the ABA for enabling us to commission this research, the first of its kind.  We know the Government appreciates the damaging consequences of severe bullying and of children missing education, including the long-term effects of low self-esteem and a poor academic record if these children are not recovered. Red Balloon has an impressive record of enabling the recovery of such children. 95% of the students who come to a Red Balloon Centre and stay longer than six weeks are able to return to school, go on to college or enter employment. However, to ensure this provision is secure Red Balloon needs the Local Authorities and/or the Government to set aside money to fund places at these intensive care educational Centres. ”

David Hall, Chief Executive, Foyle Foundation, added: “As a funder which supports learning, we considered it essential that Red Balloon undertake this important research which was a real gap and which will inform their expansion programme.”

Sue Steel, National Manager of the Anti-Bullying Alliance said: “The ABA welcomes the report commissioned by Red Balloon and hopes the findings will encourage government, schools and the wider community to address this important issue.”

Founded in 1996 by Dr Carrie Herbert, Red Balloon is the only UK charity that specifically recovers severely bullied children who are out of school and missing an education, through the provision of short-term educational, pastoral and social programmes.

The various research projects and independent assessments that have previously been undertaken have helped to clarify the whole bullying picture, from how many children are missing education to why they are bullied and to the best ways of helping them recover from its effects. This valuable quantitative research by National Centre of Social Research will complement the findings of Red Balloon’s own qualitative data collection, which includes interviews with Red Balloon graduates who left at least five years ago.  Independent evaluations from external organisations such as Ofsted help us complete the picture by validating our methods of recovery

Red Balloon, whose Patrons are Esther Rantzen CBE, founder of Childline, Doug Richard, a former ‘dragon’ from BBC Dragons’ Den and Professor Peter Smith, author, academic and expert on bullying, currently has four Centres operating in the UK as well as a virtual “Red Balloon of the Air”. Red Balloon works with Local Authorities, schools, parents and teachers to help severely bullied children, half of whom have considered or attempted suicide, to recover from the effects of their experiences.
Each Red Balloon Learner Centre provides a safe full-time learning environment for fifteen children aged between 11 and 17. The amount of time needed for students to recover varies from four weeks to three years. To date more than 170 of our students have been able to return to mainstream education or enter employment. With distraught parents of bullied children contacting us on a regular basis we have ambitious plans for growth.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Training to beat Bullying: The devastating affects of BULLYING

Training to beat Bullying: The devastating affects of BULLYING: "As i enter the fourth day of an intense mentoring course for disaffected young people, i can’t help but notice that one of the students in f..."

The devastating affects of BULLYING

As i enter the fourth day of an intense mentoring course for disaffected young people, i can’t help but notice that one of the students in front of me is nursing a slight limp. His normally active and vocal persona had diminished into a shy and reclusive shell.

As with any other session, i started by engaging in some small talk with the group to ascertain their mood and what their previous nights activities had been. It is common for me to receive negative and sometimes offensive comments as the young people within the course struggle to communicate positively hence their involvement on the course, however as a life skills mentoring tutor i always establish relationships with individuals on each course that feel comfortable speaking openly in front of their peers.

On this particular occasion, the young man with a noticeable limp of whom would normally speak freely refused to participate. Whilst attempting to encourage the student to open up a line of communication, he suddenly burst into a rage and started to use abusive language before using physical force to throw a chair in the direction of the entrance into the room.

One of the problems with working with groups of disaffected young people is that when one or two individuals become the focus of attention the remainder of the group use the slightest of excuses to create havoc. The abusive banter between the group is difficult enough to control, however dealing with individuals that sit on the fringe of the action and continually create surges of negativity can become a real problem.

In many schools classes might consist of one, two or if they are unlucky maybe three very poorly behaved young people amongst a group that in the UK would normally consist of between 25 and 35.

On the Life Skills mentoring course the whole group normally consisting of 20 young people have been identified as persistent bad behaviour offenders. This behaviour will range from having difficulty in complying to the rules of the school to the other end of the spectrum which normally involves a level of violence often fueled by drugs and alcohol.

Once the young man in question had calmed down the session commenced, however some glaring questions needed to be addressed preferably at the close of the session but definitely by the end of the 10 ten day course.

Over the next couple of days i witnessed this individual jump through a range of emotions from what can only be described as depressed to hyper active. It was clear that this young man was experiencing some difficulties but he never allowed anybody enough time to establish what the issues were in order for them to assist him.

I dedicated some serious time to establishing the views and opinions of his teachers, friends and finally his family and from these conversation a clear pattern started to develop.

This individual was a popular, bright young boy as he sailed through his primary education, however at the transition time when he moved into a new school, his parents noticed a significant change in his personality.

Initially both his mother and father put these dramatic changes down to hormonal changes as he was fast developing into a teenager. After all they could not see any other reason as to why their son would suddenly develop a very angry side to his character.

His first parents evening in his new school was a far cry from the previous events his parents had attending in his primary school. They were alarmed to be notified that academically he had fallen to the bottom level of achievement in every class. Several teachers painted a very negative picture of their son siting behaviour issues ranging from shouting at teachers to criminal damage on school property.

Most alarmingly his relationship with his parents, brothers and grandparents had diminished into nothing with constant arguments, violent rages and incidents of theft at home.

Some of his friends described his change in behaviour towards school and his home life was natural as they felt the same anger towards certain things as he did, however a majority of his friends were alarmed at how easily he would change his mood and as a result stopped hanging around with him.

Here was a young boy who in the space of just 12 months had completely alienated himself from his family and most of his friends.

In speaking to some of his teachers is was interesting to hear that the common belief amongst them was that home life for this young man was very poor and this was the reason for his self destructive personality. At this point i was a little perplexed as previous conversations with his family did not elude to his home life being in anyway responsible for his dramatic personality change.

Of course the answers to my many questions could only come from the young boy himself so a major enthuses of the Life Skills mentoring courses was to build enough mutual respect between the two of us that i could ask the questions that previously this boy had ignored.

An important part of the mentoring course is to educate young people in how to record facts around an incident so that it can used as evidence. Through the final days of the course i was pleasantly surprised to be handed a small bundle of reports from the young boy.

Upon further investigation i discovered that many of the reports were duplicates where he had written the same information down on paper several times.

A pattern quickly developed and without asking a single question it was clear that in front of me stood a young boy who had and was experiencing some severe bullying. This small bundle of reports was quite simply his way of asking for help.

Following this break through I took the opportunity to open a discussion and clarify some facts.
It seems 12 months earlier when moving to the upper school he had difficulty making the transition smoothly. After being the amongst the eldest in his previous school he was suddenly thrown into an environment where everything was alien around him. In an instant he was no longer one of the eldest instead he was one of the youngest in a school with a population five times bigger than before.

Like so many of his friends the early days in the new school involved having minor scuffles with older boys. On one occasion a minor scuffle turned into the start of a year long nightmare that would turn his life upside down.

Three older boys had targeted him for a barrage of verbal and physical abuse.

Initially it was easy to ignore the comments thrown in his direction as he thought they would get bored and move onto another individual, however after one particular incident when the group of boys decided to take their bullying tactics to a whole new level he realised that the situation around him was getting out of hand.

Angry at himself for letting the bullying get to such a bad level, he found himself hiding the bruises, cuts and grazes from his family through embarrassment. The longer the situation developed the more reluctant he was to tell his parents or teachers.

After several months of this daily grind on his personality he started to struggle to concentrate on anything else other than the bullying. He fantasied about doing horrible things to the boys as he saw this as the only way out of the situation and the more he thought about these negative thoughts the more he was aware he was treating those around him including his family and friends very badly.

School life became unbearable and he would do anything to be removed from class. Academically he took a nose dive and started falling behind on class work rapidly and the more the teachers tried to communicate with him the more frustrated he got.

At this point of our conversation i realised that we needed to collate as much evidence about these three boys as possible so we could finally put a stop to his ordeal.

He clearly recalled 23 incidents of physical assault and at the time of our conversation was wearing a couple of bruises and a swollen knee from when he was pushed down the stairs.

I decided to ask for his permission to open our conversation to include his parents and teachers, which by this time he agreed to.

It was disturbing to see the unbelievable damage these three boys had done. A happy, enthusiastic young boy had been bullied into becoming a violent, moody and very unhappy individual who spent every minute of every day thinking about ways to get rid of his enemies.

The consequence of this negativity was that he lost the relationships in his life that really mattered.

Thankfully, enough information was gathered to punish and remove these three boys from the school. In fact it became apparent that this horrible group had bullied several other young people over the same period of time. All of those being bullied failed to mention anything and thought they could deal with it themselves.

It will be some time before the young boy restores his confidence back to the levels it was before the ordeal began, but now that the situation has been addressed both the parents and teachers have started to notice a positive difference in his whole approach to daily life both at home and school.

Bullying is a very difficult topic to tackle and can clearly have some dramatic and devastating results on everybody around the victim.

The most disturbing part of this story was that in this particular school the boy had tried on several occasions to tell certain teachers but was swept away with comments like “Grow up and stop being silly”

This situation could have been dealt with much earlier but the listening and communication skills of some teachers is very poor.

Life Skills for Children unfortunately have to deal with similar situations on a weekly basis.

Please do not under estimate the damage bullying can do to an individual.

Further information can be found at