No-blame approach to bullies comes under attack

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Indy Politics

Children are being driven to anorexia, self-harm and truancy because schools are unwilling to punish bullies, children's charities have warned.

Children are being driven to anorexia, self-harm and truancy because schools are unwilling to punish bullies, children's charities have warned.

They have told the Government that the no-blame policy used by an estimated third of schools is failing to stop violence and may even be sending a message to bullies that their behaviour will go unpunished.

The Government has insisted that each school draw up an anti-bullying strategy but concerns have been raised with the Home Office that many schools are not punishing children who assault, victimise or even molest their classmates

Kidscape, a charity specialising in child abuse, has been in talks with the Home Office about the problem of the no-blame approach after dozens of parents contacted them with concerns that bullies were not being dealt with by teachers.

Kidscape, which runs a helpline for victims of bullying, said children in schools where chronic bullying was not being tackled had been driven to anorexia and self harm. They were even playing truant to escape persecution.

A spokeswoman for Kidscape said: "We have kids out on the streets because they don't want to go to school because they are afraid. Kids who are hugging teddies and blankets for security even though they are teenagers. We have seen self harm. Children are suffering."

The call for a rethink of bullying strategies in schools follows the murder of 14-year-old Luke Walmsley who was stabbed by Alan Pennell.

"We are worried that chronic bullies are not learning that there are consequences to what they do... and it doesn't give the victim the opportunity to feel that justice has been done," the spokeswoman said. "The real danger is if schools don't deal with bullying when it first starts, it escalates. The situation is not resolved by the inactivity of the adults who are supposed to be keeping the children safe."

The Government's crime strategy, which has not been published, is understood to highlight the need to target bullying in schools to help combat violent crime. Teenage boys are common victims.

A Mori-Youth Justice board survey last month found that, for some young people, schools are increasingly becoming an unsafe environment.

But the Department for Education, which is aware of concerns about the operation of the no-blame strategy in some schools, said it was up to head teachers how they implemented anti-bullying strategies.

"We say bullying should be condoned in any form. No bullying is minor; all bullying is bad whether it is mental or physical," a spokesman said.

The no-blame strategy became popular with schools in the 1990s and focused on the idea that punishing bullies did not help them alter their behaviour. Its supporters say it is effective at stopping bullying.

George Robinson, a former headteacher at a school for disruptive children who co-devised the strategy, said the system of no-blame was proved to work."We don't want punitive responses to bullying. We think a punitive response can put the victim further at risk. The no-blame approach might not change the behaviour of the bully but it should keep the victim safe," he said. "Our approach works better than any other approach that's around."

THE VICTIMS' STORIES

* One girl, who was groped every day by a boy at school, became terrified of going to school and developed anorexia. The boy received a prize from the school for stopping the molestation for three days.

* A 14-year-old girl received constant threats from other children. She "received no support or help" and was too afraid to attend lunch, so went hungry every day.

* A 10-year-old boy was assaulted repeatedly and returned home with severe bruising round his neck on one occasion. His mother was told the bully was having problems at home and her son was to blame for provoking him.

* A 12-year-old girl was taken out of school permanently last week after receiving a death threat from another pupil. She had been constantly threatened by other pupils, who said they would beat her up after school . The school felt she was overreacting and the bully got a prize for good behaviour.

* A girl of 15, whose younger brother suffered from a severe illness, received text messages saying "I hope your brother dies". She faced threats to beat her up and once came home with footprints on her stomach. Her parents felt teachers had failed to confront the bullies and she has now been taken out of school by her doctor because of psychological bullying.

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