Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)|
10 MAY 2006
Q1 Chairman: Welcome to our witnesses,
David Moore, Michele Elliot and Denys Robinson, on this auspicious
day. I have just heard from Australia that Britain has won the
bid to host the Skills Olympics in 2011. Many of us have been
working for that. We have beaten Australia, Paris (France) dropped
out, and we have beaten Sweden. It is going to be rather exciting,
and so what a good day to have a session of the committee as we
cover education and skills. Today we are going to talk about bullying.
I will ask David, Michele and Denys if they want to say anything
about bullying to get us started, or we can go straight into questions.
Ms Elliot: Kidscape has been dealing
with this problem since 1984. There are two or three very important
matters. The reason people are bullied is because the bully has
a problem and the bully looks for something to bully somebody
about. We run courses for children who have been severely bullied,
50% of whom have attempted suicide. These children come from nice
families; they have not done anything to deserve the bullying;
they are usually quite intelligent, gentle and sensitive. There
is no one particular way to stamp out bullying but many ways.
What we have found has worked and the best way is to have a good
head teacher. When the head sets the actual ethos of the school,
things go well from there. That has been our experience for the
past 21 years. We have a list of excellent schools out there doing
fantastic work. I will give you one example where it does not
work. A 15-year-old girl was stripped to her waist in a school
playground, photographs were circulated. She attempted suicide
and when the mother, grandmother and father went in to talk to
the headmaster, his comment was, and I quote, "It was a bit
of horseplay". That is not what we need.
Mr Moore: Since Ofsted was established
10 years ago, we have always commented in our reports on issues
of bullying. Under the new Section 5 arrangements, while there
is no specific requirement for inspectors to comment on bullying
within the text, they do have to record a response to a judgment
statement that action is being taken to reduce anti-social behaviour,
such as bullying and racism. In practice, most inspectors do make
a comment on bullying if it is judged to be an issue. Schools
are expected in this self-evaluation form to say what strategies
and policies they have to improve behaviour. This is pursued by
inspectors during the course of the inspections through discussions
with staff, interviews taking place with groups of pupils, normally
by year group or with the school council, and with ordinary pupils
in lessons. One of the questions that is frequently asked, and
it is something which has to be asked to all, is: what happens
if you are bullied? That way the child starts to tell you what
actions they would take if they believed they were being bullied
or they believed someone else was being bullied, which then confirms
whether in fact the systems at the school are as they say that
they are. Under our new arrangements, the inspection regime gives
shorter notice. At one time, there used to be parents' meetings
and the one question that had to be asked in those parents' meetings
was: what happens if your child is bullied? Invariably, some parents
would say, "My child was bullied and nothing happened".
In those meetings, other parents would say, "That is not
true because when it happened to our son/daughter, we contacted
the school and this is what happened". One thing one has
to recognise where parents are concerned in issues of bullying
is that they are extremely upset and angry; they feel powerless
to support their child. We give them the opportunity, through
a questionnaire, to respond to a whole series of questions. One
of those is about their child feeling safe in school and how well
they perceive the behaviour in the school to be. Parents then
use that form to make comments. Some of them write on the back
of the sheet. When the reporting inspector draws the evidence
from the questionnaire, all those where there is writing on the
back or an additional letter are set aside and an analysis is
done. If people raise issues about bullying or behaviour, that
is then pursued by the inspectors, again during the course of
the inspection, although they cannot comment on specific individual
cases. They are looking at the systems to ensure that these things
do not happen. In addition to that, we also carry out specific
work in terms of reports. I believe that you have been given a
copy of our last inspection report, which was Bullying: effective
action in secondary schools. That is now two years old. That
has led to a number of things being pursued by the Department
for Education and Skills, namely the work that they have just
put on to the website to look at incidents of racist bullying
and how that should be tackled. They have now formed a group,
on the basis of part of our report, that is starting to look at
the impact of homophobic bullying and what advice can be given
to schools to counter that.
Mr Robinson: I have been asked
to present evidence specifically about homophobic bullying. As
our organisation, EACH, provides training and support to teachers
and other education professionals, I think we are in a good position
to do that. Could I make three, fairly brief points? The first
thing I would say is that it is quite important, and we always
say this when we provide training in schools, that this is a whole
school issue; it is certainly not about political correctness,
and it certainly should be seen in the sense of whole school attainment,
whether or not each child can fulfil their personal best. If,
on a daily basis, you are being insulted and humiliated, having
your coursework vandalised or your clothing ruined, or indeed
frightened to walk home because you might be set on and beaten
up, you are not likely to do well in your SATs, GCSE or A level.
In many schools there are enough of such pupils for this to be
significantly impacting on the school's exam results, attendance
figures and truancy rates. The second point is that what is perhaps
unique about homophobic bullying is the degree of isolation of
the victims. If you are being bullied because you are black or
disabled or ugly, or whatever it may be, your parent knows and
is likely to be supportive. Your teachers are likely to be supportive.
If you are being picked on because you are thought to be gay or
lesbian, it is very likely that you cannot go home and say this.
Indeed, many kids that do that find themselves out on the street
and homeless within the hour. This is a real fear that many pupils
have. It is never particularly clear to them exactly which teacher
they might confide in. It is always going to be an extremely difficult
business for any professional teacher when suddenly faced with
a pupil who wants to come "out" to them. If they have
no previous experience of dealing with a gay or lesbian person
to their knowledge, then they are in a very difficult situation,
but their reaction of course is absolutely critical to the future
health of that pupil. I would stress isolation and we have to
think about strategies on what might be done about that. In terms
of ways forward, our basic rule of thumb would be that we need
leadership from the top, and in many ways I absolutely support
what Michele Elliot has said about good leadership in schools.
I think we also need leadership from central government. We have
had that to a very reasonable extent. The DfES has produced very
good written guidance which has gone into school that it is revising.
However, I have to say that we strongly believe there is no substitute
for face-to-face professional in-service training and that Government
should be sponsoring this. Likewise, at local authority level,
leadership there could make it clear to schools that this is an
attainment wellbeing issue that the LEA rates highly. Bristol,
for example, has chosen to pay for in-service training to each
of its secondary schools. Alternatively, they might organise day
conferences with PSHE teachers or pastoral heads. Above all, at
school level, governors and head teachers need to make it clear
to staff, pupils and parents that homophobic bullying is not acceptable,
that difference is to be respected, and that all pupils have a
right to be safe at school. Personally, in my own experience as
a school teacher, I would say that getting all the pupils together,
perhaps in their PSHE sessions, and developing a code of conduct
which specifically addresses this issue, amongst many others,
is a way of getting a kind of agreed statement which then is a
vital point of reference in future when there are incidents, but
you need incident-reporting mechanisms and all sorts of things
Q2 Chairman: Before we start the
questioning generally, can we get some facts? Stephen Williams
has been very keen on us having a session on bullying, and he
is going to be leading the questioning. One thing that sparked
our interest in particular was the evidence from the Children's
Commissioner about the priority or the ranking of this concern
amongst children that they hold. How endemic, how much of a problem,
is it? Can we get it in proportion? How much of a problem is this,
Mr Moore: Our dilemma, as we reported
in our survey, is that there are no kept statistics. What you
have are numbers of telephone calls to things like Kidscape or
ChildLine. There are recorded incidents of bullying when a child
who was perpetrating it has been punished. From the work that
Kidscape and ChildLine have done, it is interesting that if you
survey children and ask what there fear is, their fear is about
bullying. There is a difference between fear of bullying and actual
bullying. It is very difficult to determine. To give you an example,
one of the ways that girls bully is by using non-verbal communication.
A girl walks into a classroom. Other girl she thought were her
friends come into the classroom, deliberately walk towards her,
but then walk away and sit somewhere else and so they isolate
her. The same would happen with boys in terms of homophobic bullying.
Nothing is said but that diminishes the youngster in their self-esteem
and self-confidence. Denys is quite right; it stops them from
participating in learning. It is important that in the schools
where bullying is dealt with effectively, head teachers do not
perceive that you have to tackle it because it is the socially
correct thing to do; they tackle it because it stops children
from learning, and they are quite firm about that. It is quite
difficult to gauge the scale of it.
Mr Robinson: On the homophobic
bullying front, DfES's answer in 2002and I am afraid all
this survey evidence is a bit dated nowwas that 82% of
teachers interviewed were aware of verbal incidents of homophobic
bullying; 26% were aware of physical bullying of that kind. Of
190 lesbian and gay men and women interviewed in the study by
Rivers in 2000, 68% of the males reported hitting or kicking that
they had received and 31% of the female sample; 72% reported regular
absenteeism; and they were "more likely to have left school
at 16, despite gaining six GCSE at Grade C". Perhaps that
gives us a little idea of the scale.
Ms Elliot: We have kept several
surveys over the years. We did a survey in late 1999 of 1000 adults
who had been bullied as children to find out how this affected
their lives, and so it was a retrospective survey. They were seven
times more likely than the general population to have attempted
suicide, et cetera. Our most important surveys are with the children
themselves, who do not just express fear of bullying. The surveys
that we do ask, "Have you been bullied in the last year and,
if so, how?" It varies so much that it is difficult to put
a figure on it, but anywhere between 38% and 65% said they had
been bullied in the past year. We have been doing this for 20
years and just keeping our records. Therefore, my IT person has
developed a way to keep records for schools, a software package
that is slightly beyond my technical expertise but does work.
It is vital that we have research into what works, that we find
out what numbers are being bullied, and that we define it. Otherwise,
everyone everywhere has been bullied.
Q3 Stephen Williams: Could the three
of you briefly comment on how you would define bullying? None
of you have said that so far. Perhaps you could split it up into
a spectrum from teasing to physical violence or something like
Ms Elliot: We would define bullying
as a sustained, deliberate attack on somebody with the intention
of causing pain, and that could be verbal, physical, sexual, racial,
whatever you want to call it; it is all bullying when it is deliberate.
Teasing is very easy to describe. I can tease you and you can
tease me and, if we are enjoying it, that is great. If it is causing
pain, then that is bullying.
Mr Moore: For inspection purposes,
we define it as "aggressive or insulting behaviour by an
individual or group, often repeated over a period of time, that
intentionally hurts or harms. Research confirms the destructive
effects of bullying on young people's lives. Although some can
shrug it off, bullying can produce feelings of powerlessness,
isolation from others, undermine self-esteem and sometimes convince
the victim that they are at fault. It can lead to serious or prolonged
distress and long-term damage to social and emotional development".
That is the definition to which we work.
Mr Robinson: I think that covers
it very well. Obviously we are involving here: name-calling; public
ridicule (and could I say that is most damaging when it comes
from members of staff, so do not, please, let us assume that homophobic
bullying is restricted purely pupil-on-pupil as that is not the
case); hitting and kicking; rumour mongering; and social isolation,
which particularly seem to be techniques used by girls.
Ms Elliot: Except that they are
getting more violent.
Q4 Stephen Williams: The common definition
appears to be: an intention to cause pain. Has the method of bullying
changed in any way from Tom Brown's Schooldays, where you
got thumped and roasted in front of the fire, to more sophisticated
bullying that is harder to detect as Denys has mentioned? For
instance, you read about text-message bullying. Has bullying become
Mr Moore: I think there is an
issue that as more teachers become aware of the range of types
of bullying, it changes its shape, so that the school mechanisms
kick in to limit it. It is not about eradication but about limiting
the impact of it. Children then find other ways. It is about trying
to keep ahead. For example, the advent of mobile phones and youngsters
carrying mobile phones has caused a dramatic change in bullying
in so far as you were bullied in school and you were bullied on
the street, if those schoolchildren saw you on the street, but
you can now be in your bedroom, which ought to be a safe place.
A text comes up with this foul statement, and that then brings
it into your safest location. I suppose with the advent of more
technology, people find other ways. It is interesting that there
is a comment, I think in one of the broadsheets, about Friends
Reunited, which is an organisation through which you get in touch
with people you were with at school. When some people who had
been bullied registered their names, they started getting messages
from these old bullies. It is quite bizarre.
Q5 Chairman: Apologising?
Mr Moore: Oh, no, renewing the
Mr Robinson: Of course that IT
development is also followed up, and Michele alluded to this,
by this very unpleasant practice of subjecting a victim to something
very humiliating and filming it using a mobile phone camera and
then circulating the photographs.
Ms Elliot: Or putting it on the
internet. Bullying has changed in a lot of ways over the years.
Early research in the Eighties by Dan Olweus in Norway showed
that boys were more physical and girls were more verbal. It also
shows, from retrospective research of these 1000 adults, what
happened to them. What is tending to happen now is that bullying
is being reported at a younger and younger age, both by teachers
and by parents. Parents ring our helpline, and teachers as well,
saying that there is deliberate, sustained nastiness from a 7-year-old
to a 4-year-old in nursery. We are getting many more reports of
weapons. Girls are becoming more physically violent as well as
using emotional violence. People are setting up websites about
victims and inviting other people to write in to the website so
that it is not just that you are not safe with your mobile phone
and texting, et cetera; the bullies are very adept at using technology
and, as it comes along, they figure out what to do with it.
Q6 Stephen Williams: We are primarily
concerned here with the welfare of children but, in the evidence
that your organisation submitted to this inquiry, it was mentioned
that bullying can often be extended into adult life as well. Victims
can become victims in their adult life, or the bullies tend to
be domineering characters later on in life. It can involve teachers
as well. I have come across a case in my constituency of a teacher
who was subjected to homophobic abuse and was not well supported
by the school. Could you briefly comment on support for teachers
who may be bullied, ostracised or ridiculed by pupils within schools?
Mr Robinson: I did say originally
that it was a whole school issue. Frankly, if a staffroom is not
a place where teachers who are gay or lesbian can be comfortable
"out" and socially accepted by their colleagues, then
it is going to be a fairly similar account for the pupils, one
would guess. The leadership does need to be set from the top and
the ethos needs to be developed along those grounds. I am afraid
those cases that you allude to are not uncommon.
Mr Moore: There are four features
of good practice that have to be there. You have to have a strong
ethos in the school. What does this school stand for and how does
it promote tolerance and respect, including respect for difference
and diversity? You have to have positive leadership from the senior
staff and governors on how bullying is to be dealt with within
the overall policy on attitudes and behaviour. That applies to
everybody. You cannot have a school that articulates a strong
ethos about care and support for pupils when it does not support
all adults that work in the institution. It is all part and parcel
of the piece. You have to have a very clear statement about bullying,
which has input from staff, governors, parents and pupils and
which includes examples of how instances of bullying will be handled.
The final point is that you have to have a planned approach to
the curriculum and tutorial programmes on the issues of bullying
in the context which promotes self-esteem and confident relationships.
If I can go one step further, it is not just about PSHE being
taught in schools; it is about classroom teachers. For example,
if a child is name-called and the teacher chooses not to comment,
the victim interprets that the teacher is agreeing that the comment
was made, and particularly when it comes to slurs against people's
sexuality. That does not mean that the teacher then has to challenge
the individual who said it and have a huge row. There is a simply
a statement that needs to be said: "In this room we do not
do that". You are setting the tone. There is a boundary.
That is sufficient to support that child. The issue can then be
followed up at a later stage.
Q7 Chairman: Do teachers in training
get that sort of message? Are teachers trained to deal with bullying
in their training period?
Mr Moore: The training that is
offered to teachers is incredibly packed because it is a short
period of training.
Q8 Chairman: Everyone tells us that.
They do not have time to learn about special educational needs.
They do not have time to learn about how you teach children to
read. What do they have time to do?
Mr Moore: I cannot comment in
detail on that but steps are being taken to try to do more in
terms of their understanding of the nature of managing behaviour.
A significant part of their training takes place on the job. If
you start in a school that is not good at these things, you will
not learn how to do them well.
Ms Elliot: In fact, there is one
university, which will remain nameless, that I go to every Christmas,
because teachers do not want to teach on the last day of class.
I speak to the teachers in training. We spend one half of one
day speaking about bullying. They are so keen because it is almost
impossible to teach anything else if the children that you are
teaching are bullies or being bullied because all they are thinking
about is "how am I going to bully somebody when I get out
of here?" and the child is sitting there thinking, "what
is going to happen to me?" It is vital that we do this. Even
if you gave them two days, they would be grateful.
Q9 Stephen Williams: Chairman, can
we come back to your question at the start about measuring the
extent of the problem? The impression I gained is that the statistics
are patchy and rely either on charities or organisations receiving
calls, and that is probably only the tip of the iceberg, or parental
surveys that Ofsted mentioned. Do you think that schools, LEAs
and the DfES should have a more systemic approach to collecting
and understanding this problem?
Ms Elliot: I think so. One of
the difficulties has been the rather now discredited approaches
like No Blame, which, by the way, has surfaced under another
name. Many authorities took this up. Part of the actual approach
was that you do not keep records; you do not keep any written
records of anything that happens. Therefore, you really have no
idea how effective you are at stopping something. One of the other
problems, going back to something that you were saying about how
you can combat bullying, is that if there are no consequences
to bullying, children will stop telling and the bullies will just
continue to go on.
Mr Moore: I would agree with all
of that. One of the dilemmas for the Department for Education
and Skills is that they do undertake research but it is always
short-term research. To get to the heart of these issues, someone
has to be prepared to say that they going to undertake a five-year
study. Otherwise, you are just dipping in and getting a little
snapshot. One could look at a longer term study that can feed
back at different points as to the progress that is being made,
but it is about someone being prepared to make that commitment
to a long-term study. It is interesting that if you look at work
that has been done in Australia, New Zealand and the States, people
do undertake the longer term studies. Therefore, they feel more
confident in articulating a range of strategies that can then
follow from that.
Q10 Mr Carswell: I was very struck
by something that Michele said that if no action is taken and
there are no consequences, the problem remains. There is a school
in my constituency where there is a big bullying problem and we
are now being asked to raise it. I have been given a long lecture
about something called restorative justice.
Ms Elliot: No blame by another
Q11 Mr Carswell: Do you think that
is effective? That is what triggered the last question.
Ms Elliot: I do not have any problem
with a whole range of approaches. I do not think there is one
method for every school that is going to stop bullying, except
the common sense one of the head, and that will stop it. If you
do not make a clear judgment and make it clear to the students
that this is the line that you do not go over, they will continue
to go over it. That is what kids do. All of us who have been parents
know that. Restorative justice can work in the right ethos but,
if the bullying is continuing, the bullies have got the other
message that "nothing is going to happen to me". Very
briefly, we did a study in two young offenders' institutions.
We went in and talked to 95 of these young offenders. It will
not surprise you that over 90% of them had been bullies at school.
Nobody stopped them. Maybe they would not have been where they
were if they had been stopped. Whenever I say this, people tend
to think I believe in the "hang them high, discipline, I
want to hit kids". No, none of that, and we never hit either
one of our sons, luckily because they are 6 feet 3 now. The reality
is that discipline has to be there and consequences, and good
consequences as well when you behave well. It is very simple.
It does not take rocket science to stop bullying. That is what
is so frustrating.
Q12 Stephen Williams: Are there any
differences between the nature of bullying in primary schools
and in secondary schools? Also, are there are differences between
the ways boys bully and girls bully?
Ms Elliot: There are differences.
The differences that we have had in the past, as I said briefly
earlier about boys bullying boys, tend to be more up-front -punching
or hitting. In the primary schools, if you get the girls at around
age eight and nineand I am sure every female in the room
will recognise thisyou see, "you are my friend today,
you are not my friend tomorrow", that sort of thing, but
it is at a much lower level, and it is very easy to stop it at
that level. I was a primary school teacher. You change the seating
around; you change the lunch rooms around; you assign people to
do things; you bring in peer mentoring, et cetera. By the time
you get to secondary school, you do not suddenly have full-sprung
bullies there. They were the ones who were not stopped in primary
school and the victims are the same ones who are going forward
with their "oh, I am a victim" mentality. It is more
sustained; it is more underground; they are much better at hiding
it; and it is much more insidious and more difficult to stamp
out. That is one of the reasons we do these courses for children
who have been bullied. Our most requested course, and we ran one
last week and we will run one on Friday, is offered to kids making
that transition stage, the kids from primary school who have been
victims and who are going into secondary school still with that
mentality, and, believe me, the bullies are there waiting for
them. We try to change the mentality before they go there.
Q13 Mr Chaytor: Do all bullies know
that they are bullies?
Ms Elliot: No.
Q14 Mr Chaytor: What is best practice
in getting the bully to confront the fact that he or she is a
Ms Elliot: At an early stage,
many of them do not know they are bullies and they are just responding
as they would at home and this is what they have got away with.
Many of these children, when you point it out to them, will actually
stop. Some of the other ones do know that it is a way to have
power, that it is what they are successful at, that they are popular
because the other kids circle around them and do not want to be
part of the victims. Those children are much more difficult to
deal with. We have invited them on courses and they just do not
Mr Robinson: In our area, there
is a very peculiar thing that develops from time to time. I have
talked to several people who have been through this themselves.
They at 14 or 15 and know or suspect that they are turning out
gay. They see some other person in the class being picked on for
that reason. They join in the bullying in order to cover themselves,
and of course later on they are feeling absolutely terrible about
Q15 Mr Chaytor: In terms of assessing
the scale of the problem in schools, earlier you gave us different
figures and identified certain ways in which it is reported, but
what more needs to be done to get a more accurate picture of the
scale of the problem in all our schools, and whose responsibility
Mr Moore: There are issues about
recording incidents in schools. What tends to happen is that when
a case has been proven and someone has been punished, that is
recorded. There is an issue about schools logging. Many do that
simply by having something called a bully box. Children drop in
a letter or a note saying, "I am being bullied" and
the school keeps a log of all of those and that is how they work
out their scale.
Q16 Mr Chaytor: But there is not
a standard procedure?
Mr Moore: There is not a standard
procedure across schools.
Q17 Mr Chaytor: Is there a standard
procedure for logging incidents of proven bullying or not?
Mr Moore: It is difficult to say
because sometimes, if violence is used, the child is excluded
for violence, not bullying, although bullying is the underlying
issue. It tends to be whatever one they record on the form. That
obscures some of that bullying.
Ms Elliot: The schools tell us
that they do not have any clear guidance on doing it. They download
our bully incident log from our website. That is by Kidscape and
it is not nation-wide.
Q18 Mr Chaytor: So this is an issue
for the DfES presumably to look at more effective standardised
procedures for recordings?
Mr Moore: It would be true to
say that the DfES is constantly trying to refine that. One of
their difficulties is that they have to be careful that they do
not, as it were, impose too many burdens on schools. There is
a tension between the requirement not to do that and other measures
that could be put in place.
Q19 Mr Chaytor: There is a requirement
to log incidents.
Mr Moore: There ought to be.
1 Note by witness: I. Rivers "Social exclusion,
absenteeism and sexual minority youth". Support for Learning
Vol 15(1), pp 13-17. Back