Record level of children seeking help for bullying

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The Independent Online

A record number of schoolchildren has sought help for bullying in the past year. One in three complained of being attacked while half reported verbal abuse and name calling, according to the children's charity ChildLine.

A record number of schoolchildren has sought help for bullying in the past year. One in three complained of being attacked while half reported verbal abuse and name calling, according to the children's charity ChildLine.

An increasing number said that bullies were using e-mails and text messaging to torment them. The number of children who received counselling from the charity rose by 42 per cent in the past year - the biggest annual increase in the 18-year history of the charity.

Last year more than 31,000 young people spoke to a ChildLine counsellor about bullying - up from just over 21,000 in the previous 12 months. Bullying is the single biggest reason for children to call ChildLine and accounts for one in four calls to the free 24-hour helpline.

The figures also revealed an increase in the number of younger children calling ChildLine about bullying. About 8,500 calls were from children of 11 and under.

A quarter of children who called about bullying said they had told a teacher but still felt the need to telephone the charity for help. Recent research found that pupils believed that reporting bullying to teachers was risky because complaints might not be taken seriously or they might suffer reprisals as a result of "telling".

The publication of the figures coincided with the launch of a fundraising initiative - the ChildLine Foundation - to address concerns that vulnerable children were being turned away because the charity lacks the resources to answer all the calls it receives.

The number of children counselled by ChildLine rose by 18 per cent to 141,872 in the period between April 2003 and March this year, compared with 119,746 in the previous 12-months.

The broadcaster Esther Rantzen, thefounder and chairwoman of ChildLine, said that although many schools took a strong stance against bullies, more needed to be done. "Bullying wrecks lives - it can not only destroy children's happiness but also seriously damages children's capacity for learning and for enjoying school," she said. "Our volunteer counsellors tell us that the calls they receive about bullying are some of the most painful they encounter at ChildLine."

A ChildLine spokeswoman said that the unprecedented rise in calls about bullying did not necessarily mean that bullying was on the increase, but could simply reflect children's greater awareness that they should not suffer in silence.

Dianne Thompson, the chief executive of the lottery operator Camelot, who was herself bullied at school, will head the new foundation and aims to raise £1m in its first year. She said: "For children to acknowledge that they need help for whatever reason is a very brave step. Everyone I've spoken to since agreeing to take on this project has either experienced bullying or knows someone who has been a victim of bullying."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said that the Government had a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. She added: "Bullying is a part of life for too many children, but it should not be a fact of life. Giving a high profile to the anti-bullying message and encouraging young people to come forward is important if we are to show no tolerance to bullying."

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