Rantzen calls for pledge on bullying

ESTHER RANTZEN, the Childline chairman, is calling on the Government to amend the Parent's Charter, to give children a guarantee that schools will investigate all complaints about bullying, writes Ngaio Crequer.

In a letter published today to John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, she says there has been a big response to a special bullying line launched jointly by Childline and the BBC. Between 28 February, when the line was piloted, and 18 April, there were 18,995 calls - nearly 1,000 in one evening.

The letter states: 'I am sure you will be as concerned as we are to learn that in the early weeks roughly one in five calls came from parents, almost all of them at their wits' end because they could not get their child's school to take seriously their complaints about the bullying of their child.'

She said that an analysis of calls to a previous bullying line showed that in extreme cases bullied children may become suicidally depressed.

Some schools had established policies for dealing with bullying but others felt 'being bullied is a normal part of growing up', or that children who are bullied somehow invite bullying by their own behaviour, and therefore reject children or families who ask for help. The free bullying line is 0800 44 99 44.

About 350,000 youngsters fall victim to school bullies once a week, according to the children's mental health charity Young Minds, which is publishing a leaflet to help parents and others to get help for victims of bullying.