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Education: School bullies prey on five-year-olds

Children as young as five are being bullied at school, according to a study published yesterday.

The survey of 1,000 parents and children found that nearly every child has some experience of bullying and 80 per cent have suffered a sustained attack. Half of these said that they were harassed daily at school. The average age for a child to be bullied for the first time is eight.

A quarter of parents surveyed by Family Circle magazine said that their child had first encountered bullying at the age of five or younger. Overall, 99.5 per cent of those questioned said bullying was part of their lives because either they or close friends were victims.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, was presented with a copy of the report at the House of Commons. He described how he had helped to form an anti-bullying squad at his residential school for the blind. "Two or three of us got engaged in our own reprisal unit, something I would not recommend as Secretary of State for Education. I remember hitting this lad who had been bullying other smaller children. I ended up in hospital with a broken hand.

"We have to find better ways of dealing with bullying than bullying back. Often those who are bullied then start to take it out on other children and you have a vicious circle."

One in ten children had never discussed bullying with anyone and boys were much less likely than girls to ask for help. Teachers and pupils had different views of schools' attitude to bullying.

While teachers said they were determined to stamp out bullying, half of those who said they were being bullied said their school had been unhelpful.

Linda Hudson who runs a helpline for bullied children and their parents said her son Nicky, now 15, had been out of school for five-and-a-half years after a serious bullying incident.