Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
10 MAY 2006
Q20 Mr Chaytor: What about racist
incidents? Is there a requirement to log racist incidents?
Mr Moore: Yes.
Q21 Mr Chaytor: But not homophobic
Mr Moore: No, there is no requirement
at the moment.
Mr Robinson: In many ways, a lot
of this problem that we have would be solved if the same practice,
that is very good practice that is followed on racist incidents,
were applied to homophobic incidents, but it is not, I am afraid.
In the same way, for example, where schools of course are all
required to have an anti-bullying policy in place, only 6% of
schools make any kind of specific reference to homophobic bullying.
Ms Elliot: And some schools keep
no records at all.
Q22 Mr Chaytor: On the evidence of
the statistics that have been collected, what proportion of all
children (a) in primary and (b) in secondary schools are subject
to bullying? What is your best estimate of that?
Ms Elliot: If you look at everything
from the Sheffield research straight through to Dan Olweus, all
kinds of research, that can be anywhere from 18% to 38%.
Mr Robinson: On a rule of thumb
basis, and I can only speak here from personal experience of 30
years a teacher, I would say that in each class you have probably
got one or two pupils who are growing up gay or lesbian. Then
there will be two, three or four more who do not quite fit in
with the general feel of the class; they are perhaps a little
sensitive, a little uninterested in sport or whatever, if they
are boys, and so they are likely to be victims. If you think of
the ones who genuinely are in later life going to turn out to
be a gay or lesbian, and total that up for a school of 1,000,
we are probably talking about 50 or 60 pupils. That is why I say
that it can have quite a serious effect on GCSE results and league
Q23 Chairman: Is the independent
sector better at dealing with bullying than the state sector?
Mr Moore: I do not think there
is any evidence to say that this.
Q24 Mr Chaytor: Could I ask about
the new inspection arrangements? Given that we have now got shorter
notice, shorter inspections, lighter touch inspections, is that
going to reduce the likelihood of identifying bullying as a problem?
In the old system, there were more opportunities for the parents
and the pupils to report directly to the inspectors their perception
of the school. Presumably, those opportunities are less available
with the new inspections?
Mr Moore: The new inspection regime
has only been running two terms, in effect. The way that colleagues
are organising those inspections, it is interesting that time
is cut out of that inspection time to talk formally to pupils.
If you are doing a secondary school inspection, you speak to a
representative group in each year and the school counsellor. Time
is being made for that. They are still doing that in primary schools
because they see that as an important way of validating what the
school is saying. As you have said, we do not have the parents'
meeting. I would be surprised if Ofsted were to want to curtail
that. If issues are flagged up, even when we are looking towards
proportional inspections that they offer for schools deemed to
be already outstanding, someone is going in for a day and they
would still want to check against the issues around children's
safety because there is the "every child matters" agenda.
You have to be confident and the school has to be able to evidence
what it is they do. That is what you then look at when you start
to question them on it.
Q25 Mr Chaytor: In assessing children's
safety and general wellbeing, what specific criteria are used
within the new inspection framework? Is there one that specifically
refers to bullying?
Mr Moore: Yes, because you have
to ask if the school complies with the requirements of Every
Child Matters and there is the issue about child safety. Bullying
automatically comes into that.
Q26 Mr Chaytor: Is it a specific
criterion on which the school is assessed?
Mr Moore: Yes, we have to form
a judgment, as I said at the beginning. There is a form on which
you have to make a judgment. It says, "What is the school's
strategy? Is that strategy effective for dealing with things like
bullying and racial harassment?"
Q27 Mr Chaytor: Finally, can I ask
about training because there was some comment earlier about the
paucity, in training teachers, of identifying the symptoms of
bullying. Equally, if the consensus is that it all stems from
the head teacher, it should be an easier problem to resolve by
ensuring that all head teachers are effectively trained as part
of their professional development. What is there for head teachers?
Is it systematic or is it arbitrary?
Mr Moore: I believe those sorts
of issues are covered in the National School Leadership Programmes.
Local authorities lay on very good training and they bring in
people from a range of expertise across the country. We know from
one of the authorities we inspected that there is a direct correlation
between incidents of bullying being reported by parents from particular
schools and those schools never going to that in-service training,
and there is nothing that anybody can do. Because schools have
a high degree of autonomy, if they choose not to participate,
then technically there is nothing that can be done. I suppose
those letters could be passed on from the local authority to an
organisation like ours. Complaints go to the DfES. They could
come to us and we could then look at the inspection regime and
whether that school should be brought forward for inspection.
Q28 Helen Jones: Is there any detailed
research that tells us why children bully and which children are
the most likely to start bullying others in school? We hear a
lot of anecdotal evidence but how much real, detailed research
is there in this area?
Ms Elliot: The research has been
done mainly by Dan Olweus in Norway. You have heard me mention
his name. He is the guru. It is very specific research. Basically
it says that these are children who come from homes where there
is inconsistent discipline. Some of his research shows children
who are particularly hyperactive. There is a whole list, and I
will give that to you rather than go through the whole thing.
He then studied these children and followed them for 40 years.
The results were really fascinating because they were four times
more likely to end up in prison than the regular population, and
a whole range of other things. In addition to children coming
from homes were bullying is basically fostered, we found a whole
other group of bullies who come from homes where they are so indulged
that they go to school and they are little gods and they think
that everything revolves around them. We call them the brat bullies
basically, but we do not have research to say how many and which
they are. His research, as far as I know, is the only long-term
research being done on the bullies themselves.
Q29 Helen Jones: What about those
who become victims of bullying? Again, we hear anecdotal evidence
about people getting themselves into a victim mentality. Equally,
on occasions an outsider might wonder why on earth someone has
been picked on to be bullied? Do we have any evidence about the
victims of bullying, why they are targeted, what happens to them
when they are targeted, and how that affects their learning, their
later life, and so on?
Mr Robinson: I have referred to
a number of studies by academics and by the DfES. Those are a
bit out of date now. I would urge DfES, and perhaps the Department
for Health as well, to spend some money on carrying out much more
thorough research. I think this would be a reasonable task for
Mr Moore: You might want, at some
point, to have a discussion with those organisations that support,
for example, women who have been victims in terms of abuse by
their partners. I suspect there is a high correlation between
what happened to them when they were at school and the mental
state that it got them into and them then becoming caught up in
that. There is an important difference about one of the underlying
causes of boys bullying and girls bullying. Girls tend to talk
about themselves more than boys. Boys operate at quite a superficial
level and talk about football and all sorts of other things. They
do not make big disclosures. The difficulty is that the more that
you disclose about yourself, the more ammunition people have to
harm you. That is an important difference that underlies some
of the girls' bullying. You can track that by looking at older
people. You have to look at older people and track back.
Mr Robinson: Without wishing to
be crass, it is possible that boys who are growing up gay tend
to reveal more about their inner selves than straight boys do.
There is something about the whole way in our culture that boys
perceive themselves to be men. If you have this terrible pressure
that there is now for boys to be macho, to be tough, not to show
their feelings, to treat girls as sex objects, to be harsh and
rough and all the rest of that, then obviously somebody who does
not fit those parameters, whether they are gay or not, is likely
to be at risk.
Q30 Helen Jones: Denys, is there
a difference, in your experience, between those who bully people
who are gay or lesbian, or perhaps bully them on racist grounds,
and what you might call the more generalised bullying: "I
bully someone because I do not like the way she looks or dresses",
or whatever? Is there a difference or can you trace the same pattern
in those that carry out that kind of bullying?
Mr Robinson: The people who are
likely to take it up and do something about it are probably the
same types all around but, that said, they are probably more likely
to have grown up in homes where casual vile comments about gay
or lesbian people are tossed around and not challenged and thought
to be great. They import that into school and cannot see any reason
why they are being challenged"Doesn't everybody think
gay people are contemptible? What's the problem?"
Ms Elliot: We are keeping records.
We are dealing with children who are victims of bullying. Going
back to your question of what makes a victim, we have been keeping
pre-imposed questionnaires that have been independently evaluated.
I will leave this with you. It is about working with victims.
It is the very severe end that we are dealing with and so I cannot
tell you what makes a victim except that the bully is looking
for a victim.
Q31 Helen Jones: That would be interesting.
Denys, you said in your evidence that 94% of British schools do
not have policies that address homophobic bullying. Why is that,
do you think, and what would such policies look like? You referred
earlier to the fact that you need a whole school approach to bullying
in general. What changes would you like to see addressed on that
Mr Robinson: The critical thing,
surely, is that the school has agreed. As I say, it is so much
stronger if all the pupils have been actively engaged in discussing
this stuff in their groups and have come up with a conclusion
themselves, rather than it just being decided by the head and
governors and handed down. There needs to be an explicit statement
that this school will not tolerate homophobic bullying. It needs
to be spelt out somewhere so that it is a point of reference.
Q32 Chairman: We do not want to get
to the stage where there is a good code against homophobic bullying
and racist bullying but not other for bullying. That has to be
Mr Robinson: I entirely agree
with that. Could I back-track to a question that Helen Jones made?
I am not trying to make a political point here exactly but the
baleful influence of Section 28 for very many years from 1988
gave many schools and head teachers, some of whom frankly are
homophobic, the excuse to hide behind that legislation by falsely
claiming that it prevented them from teaching about homophobia,
or indeed even taking effective action about homophobic bullying.
Now that that has gone, we have a battle to make people realise
that it has gone. It is surprising how many people will still
say, "Oh, we cannot touch that; it is Section 28".
Q33 Jeff Ennis: The Children's Commissioner,
earlier on this year, suggested that we ought to be thinking in
terms of having an annual survey on bullying in order to get a
better monitoring system off the ground. Do you all agree with
Ms Elliot: I agree, as long as
it does not interfere with actually doing practical work. One
of the problems in all of these types of issues is that the Government
throws money at "let's have a survey, let's have anti-bullying
week, let's do this", and it becomes window-dressing. "Let's
tell the children to tell": fine, we told all the children
to tell and then what happened? Not a lot. A survey is fine as
long as there is a practical outcome to it and so that the kids
are actually helped.
Q34 Jeff Ennis: We have looked at
the different aspects of what bullies are. Can bullying be class-based?
Does it cover all social classes? Are there any features that
working class bullies might have over middle class bullies?
Mr Moore: It cuts across all groups,
but one form of bullying that does exist is around differences
between socio-economic groups in the same school. If you have
highly motivated pupils and an under-culture of disengagement,
that group then bullies those children. They use words like "swat"
and the rest, but it pulls down a group that is motivated. It
is about how a school tackles that bottom-end culture. That is
why that policy is so important and the expectations of the schools
are clearly articulated to the children.
Mr Robinson: Swats very quickly
Q35 Jeff Ennis: Are the legal duties
on schools centred around bullying strong enough or do we need
to beef them up?
Mr Moore: There is a point when
bullying starts to become a criminal offence if you are over a
certain age because it involves intimidation and threatening behaviour.
There is a raft of laws already around dealing with certain types
of behaviour that a school could employ. What may inhibit them
is the fear of criminalising a child. At the end of the day, and
both my colleagues have said this, if the school does not make
it clear what the consequences are or could be, because schools
have the power to exclude a child if they believe their behaviour
is unacceptable, there is another set of laws that the children
need to be aware of: if you do this, then somebody can bring a
civil action or a criminal action against you, and you need to
understand that. It is about schools being up-front and saying
that to the young people and to their parents so that when the
parent says, "I refer to this, that and the other",
you then say, "You may well do in your own home but in this
community this is the way that things are. It is not negotiable".
The good schools that we have inspected took that line: it is
not negotiable and this is unacceptable.
Q36 Jeff Ennis: How can we make it
easier for children who have been bullied to tell an adult and
open the process?
Mr Robinson: I refer to one suggestion
in my written evidence, which we came across and I have not been
able to track down in detail. We were told that there is a system
running in certain schools in parts of Germany where the pupil
body elects teachers of trust, so-called, who then, under German
law, have the legal ability to receive confidential information
which they are not then obliged to pass on. They almost have a
sort of priest function, I suppose, in a sort of way. In many
ways, it would be helpful in every school for there to be people
like that who are not head teachers or LEA appointed, because
it is coming from the grass roots up.
Ms Elliot: On the first assembly
you make it clear to the entire school that this is a school that
does not tolerate bullying. You put in pupil helpers, call them
what you will, peer mentors, and do not give them too much responsibility
because I worry about that a lot. Put up things like bully boxes
but do not call them bully boxes; call them suggestion boxes,
and a child can put something in if he thinks he is getting too
much homework. Then a kid walking by putting something in is not
thought just to be a child who is reporting. Several of the schools
that I visited in Norway, granted they were the smaller schools,
had a brilliant system because each child needed to have a bus
pass or a lunch voucher and, to get that, they went to a particular
teacher. During that time, which was once a week or once a month,
the child actually saw the teacher and could tell the teacher
things that they would not otherwise tell. Our experience with
the victims of bullying is that the older they get, the more rarely
they tell. They certainly do not want to distress their parents,
or the teachers for that matter.
Mr Moore: Our evidence tells us
that a significant number of schools now have peer mentors or
buddies, as they are called, who receive proper training; they
have drop-in centres and pupils use those. They also turn to learning
mentors. One of the questions we ask is: if you were being bullied,
where would you go? Invariably, children will name a member of
staff, be that a teacher or an adult, and say that if they were
concerned, they would start with them. Quite often they will make
the disclosure to that member of staff but not want it to be taken
any further. That member of staff then is stuck in a position
until they can talk the child round into taking it further, because
they recognise that they need to be working with the child. There
are quite a lot of systems already in place.
Q37 Jeff Ennis: What specific anti-bullying
programmes or approaches do you think are the best and work most
Ms Elliot: I am prejudiced, obviously.
I think the systems that work the best are the ones that involve
the parents and the children; that put down specific suggestions
about what will happen; that get the kids involved in making up
contracts, and following through. Again, it is not a magic thing;
it is such common sense. It is good teaching. It is good parenting,
basically. We have followed schools that put in things like bully
courts, for example: where the children themselves come up with
ideas about what should happen. It sounds draconian. They have
not set up voodoo dolls yet, but who knows what they will do in
the future? Maybe bear traps in the playground! But we do find
that they actually work, if you just make it up front that, "This
school will not tolerate bullying", and on you go. Then any
kind of system can work. You can do anything in that.
Mr Robinson: I would absolutely
support all of that and so I will not go over it again. However,
I would make one final point. The vital thing in our area is in-service
training, or indeed initial teaching training, the TDA. The problem
is, because the Government has, very rightly, devolved an awful
lot of financial management to schools, headteachers are in charge
of the in-service training budget. We therefore have a reverse
situation going on. If the school is aware that homophobia is
a problem, or are willing to acknowledge it, it might just be
willing to include in-service training on this problem in its
programme. If the school is denying that they have a problem,
or indeed the head is homophobic to start with, the last thing
they will do is spend part of their precious budget on getting
in-service training about how to deal with gay and lesbian pupils,
or people who are thought to be so. So you do actually need either
government sponsorship to pay so that the training is free, or
LEA likewise. Otherwise, you have a perverse incentive going on.
Q38 Chairman: Where did the no-blame
thing come from? You seem to agree that it did not work and does
not work, but where did it come from?
Ms Elliot: It originally came
from Sweden, from Anatole Pikas who is a researcher at the University
of Uppsala. It was brought into this country by George Robinson
and Barbara Maines. It was bastardisedthat is the best
word I can useto the point that it became totally ineffective.
There are seven steps, which include the victim telling or writing
down what has happened; the teacher then taking that to the bully;
setting up a group of bullies, with other people involved to decide
what to do; not keeping any records. These are the seven steps,
trusting to the children that it will happen and going back and
saying, "Did it happen?". What we foundand I
have brought this and will leave it with you20, 30 or 40
letters from the kids and the parents that this has actually happened
to. What does happen is that the child says, "I'm not going
to tell again because you have just told the bully everything
about me; so they know exactly what to do". It has come back,
by the way, and it has been around as the "support group
method" or the "seven-step solution".
Q39 Chairman: There is a bit of snake
oil, in your view!
Mr Moore: There is one final point,
to do with the in-service training of staff and the initial teacher
training. Government has control over initial teacher training.
We can therefore suggest that newly qualified teachers have such-and-such
experience. The issue is around the existing staff in schools.
Denys is quite right. The responsibility for their in-service
training is the headteacher's. So the issue is about what sorts
of discussions need to take place with headteachers to ensure
that those issues become part of ongoing training for staff in
2 Note by witness: DfES Bullying: don't
suffer in silence, 2002. Back