Education Quandary

I think my daughter is being bullied. But her teacher says that if she was, she'd know

This teacher is displaying the "I know best" arrogance that far too many teachers show to parents. Just because teachers know what goes on in their classrooms does not mean that they have a clue what is happening elsewhere.

In fact, a huge amount of bullying takes place on the journey to and from school. These days, it also takes place by e-mail and texting. All this will be invisible in the classroom, and if any exchanges should take place in school, they are likely to be much more low key than anything outside - the sort of stuff teachers can easily dismiss as insignificant.

But it is vital you try to find out from your daughter what is going on. Drawn-out bullying can take a terrible toll on a child's self-confidence and lead to entrenched depression. Question her gently, maybe suggesting that, if anyone is giving her grief, she will be helping other children to avoid a similar fate by speaking up. Or suggest she writes down what is bothering her.

Monitor her closely to see when she seems most anxious, and try talking to other parents to see if they've noticed anything amiss. Ask if she'd like you to take her to and from school for a time. Above all, be sure your daughter knows that you are there to listen whenever she needs you.

And speak to her teacher again, asking her and her colleagues to watch closely for problems. Good teachers know that attentive parents are allies, not enemies, and should want to work with them to help any pupil who is unhappy.

Readers' advice

If she can afford it, I would suggest that the mother who suspects her child is being bullied should try neuro linguistic programming (NLP) counselling (www.nlp.com). It entails fully confidential discussions, even with children. I have seen it work quite dramatically. It can amazingly alter the way both adults and children see their problem.
Helen Winter, Bromley, Kent

My daughter had to leave her primary and secondary schools because she was bullied, and in both cases I had to fight hard to get anyone to believe her and do something. At the primary school, the children eventually admitted what they had been doing. At secondary school, the girls sent her to Coventry, at the same time telling the teacher how concerned they were about her. My daughter took an overdose and nearly died. Fortunately, she is now happily settled elsewhere. The website www.bullying.co.uk helped us to feel less alone.
Celia Howells, Guildford, Surrey

Bullying isn't something that goes away with kind words or teachers' promises. For this reason, home education may give you the opportunity to rebuild her self-esteem, reassure her about your love for her and strengthen her damaged identity. Sadly, I have met many parents whose children have been bullied - and it's not the physical kind that's worst. Giving her some months of home education may seem unlikely because of work commitments and bills to pay, but it may be exactly what she needs at this time of crisis.
Eric Foggitt, Trustee, Home Education Advisory Service, East Lothian

Next week's quandary

My children's primary school seems to have switched to doing a lot more topic work. Everything my son does at the moment is about the Egyptians, and everything my daughter does is about the rainforest. I think they'd learn much better by doing separate subjects, like the local prep school does. Am I right, or am I worrying needlessly?

Send your letters to Hilary Wilce, at The Independent, Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or send e-mails to h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.

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