Call to Change Anti Bullying Law

Leading education lawyers and charities are calling for a change in the law to protect vulnerable young people from extreme bullying in England and Wales.

Head teachers are not being held accountable for violent and abusive pupils and anti-bullying guidelines should be strengthened, they claim.

The Children’s Legal Centre said more parents had been seeking legal advice.

But the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said “hyper-accountability” already existed.

England Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said the government’s measures were working, but recognised procedures for parents needed to be strengthened. He said a bill to address this was already in parliament.

The call comes after the Westminster government launched a campaign to help tackle bullying against children with special needs.

Mike Charles, an education lawyer, said schools are too often trying to avoid responsibility.

“I’m seeing a rise in the number of people turning to the law, heads are not being held accountable,” he said.

He wants heads to be forced to report and act on all cases of bullying, and an independent adjudicator to access every school.

Physical and emotional

In a BBC Breakfast News report Debbie (name changed to protect her children) said she had no choice but to consider legal action against the school her two teenage children used to attend.

She claims teachers stood by and watched as her son was attacked – in front of her – by about 40 other pupils.

“They had these temporary metal road signs the triangular ones and they just attacked him with it, beating him.

“Watching your kids being persecuted for no reason – it’s heartbreaking,” she said.

She says her children have been kept out of class for nearly a year because of physical and emotional bullying by other pupils.

The school says Debbie’s child’s special needs were behind many of the problems, and any bullying took place outside the school.

Alison Fiddy, from the Children’s Legal Centre, backed the call to stress the responsibility of head teachers. “We need to see heads being held accountable,” she said.

But Mick Brookes, general secretary of the NAHT, said head teachers were already held to account in a number of different ways and “hyper-accountability [is] out there already”.

Mr Coaker said: “There is a bill before parliament at the current time which will allow those procedures to be strengthened in the small number of cases where things haven’t worked.

“That will allow parents to go to the local government ombudsman,” he added.

‘Distressed child’

The National Bullying Helpline has called for a new code of practice for schools, similar to one used in the workplace by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

The helpline’s chief executive Christine Pratt said she wanted outsiders brought in to schools to investigate bullying claims and take pressure away from parents.

“We believe teachers are not necessarily the right person or individual to address a complaint from a parent,” she said.

“That just raises another issue of conflict and then the parent is in a situation where they’ve got a credibility issue and they’ve got a distressed child at home.”

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http://news.bbc.co.uk