Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
10 MAY 2006
Q80 Chairman: What about the kids
that bully by, "I'll wait for you outside the school"?
Mrs Duncan: I have always taken
the viewand in my previous school when I was deputy we
also took this viewthat while the children were in their
school uniform, going to and from school, they are not my responsibility
but I will take action if they misbehave. For example, if a member
of the public rings up and says, "Some of your children were
having a go at my daughter on the way home from school",
then I will punish. That is not legislation yet. I am not actually
allowed to do that yet, but it is in the new White Paper. We have
always done that, because we feel that when they are wearing our
uniform and they are moving to and from school they are representing
the school, and they are seen to be a part of Horbury School.
Mr D'Abbro: I go back to the certainty-of-the-consequence
line again. I just think that it is such a powerful one. We had
an interesting phenomenon at school recently, where some of our
older children, who previously may well have been bullied, were
allocated laptops. They were saying that they were frightened
to go home, because the word had got out and they were saying,
"We're going to be bullied by other children because they
know we've got laptops". We then had to rethink our procedures
for getting children home. I think that it does extend outside
the school gates. If it means that we will escort children on
to the buses so that they feel safe, that is the bottom line.
If the bottom line of Every Child Matters is that you cannot
learn unless you feel safe, then I think that it behoves us, as
the people in loco parentis, to make sure that children
do feel safe and that we do what it takes. I am sure that will
not be popular with some of my colleagues; but, as a parent, what
was really important for me to know was that when my children
were at school they were safe, because, if they are safe, they
are happy and they learn. If it means we have to go that extra
mile, then I think that we do it. To come back to one of the points
and why do not all schools do itand I am not saying that
they do not, I am not bashing the professionit is much
easier sometimes to turn a blind eye than see through the course
of action set down by your procedures and policy. Sometimes it
is more work to carry out an investigation, or do an audit, or
follow something through; but my money says that if you do that,
in the long run it will save you more work. The ethos you establish
within your community is, "There will always be a follow-throughwhether
it is a positive one if you are getting it right, or a potentially
negative one if you are getting it inappropriately wrong".
Q81 Chairman: When we did our investigation
into school transport, we found that one of the problems was bullying
on the buses, whether it was school buses or buses. There was
an argument that a dedicated school bus system gave you much more
control of that phenomenon. Is there anything in your experience
that touches on a school transport system and bullying?
Mrs Duncan: It has not really
been an issue in my current school. In my last school it was a
bit of an issue, and we had sixth-form monitors. They rode on
the buses and that was their responsibility. They came and reported
any incidents or anything that was going on on the buses. It does
not really make any difference if it is a bus dedicated just to
the children from your school or if it has other people on it:
I think that incidents will still occur.
Mr D'Abbro: I think that it is
acknowledged that there will potentially be a problem. If you
acknowledge that there is a problem, you then put steps in place
to manage it if there is a problem or, conversely, to stop it
happening in the first place. Again, I can think of some of our
children who were ridiculed and bullied because they went to a
special school. So we had to teach them strategies about how to
manage that, which is not about lashing out physicallybecause
that was the easiest waybut using different strategies.
When the children sawbecause there was a consequence for
the children from the mainstream school who had been ridiculing
themthat that was followed through seriously by the school,
we found that they did not have to resort to physical violence
to sort it out: they used more appropriate assertiveness techniques
to resolve those issues.
Q82 Mr Chaytor: We have focused very
much, in both the earlier session and now, on secondary schools.
Presumably children do not just suddenly start becoming bulliesor
do they? In your experience, is it a habit that continues over
a number of years, or can children become bullies for a short
period of time and then the problem is cured?
Mr D'Abbro: People bullybecause
it is people, not just children, and we must not lose sight of
thatbecause they do not feel good about themselves. I think
that starts in the school process for some children when they
are very young. Yes, we can put fixes on a secondary school. In
some ways, some of the procedures that we have talked about are
more effective in the secondary sector; but they need to be because
the schools are smaller. It is actually an issue we need to address
in all sectors, but particularly with young children. The children
I work with are that extreme of children who are most bullied
or the most bullying at a very young age. What I passionately
believe is that, by giving children the right resources, i.e.
human resources, we can effect change in children's lives and
they can learn not to be bullied. It is not a quick fix. Sometimes
problems will take as long to solve as they took to come about.
It is acknowledging that there is a problem and that you can get,
believe it or not, five and six year-olds who bully their parents.
That is a really quasi-flip of bullying, but I have seen it. You
then have to say that, if we do not address it at five and six,
by 14 and 15 we will have a child who will be banged up, either
in residential schooling or with a custodial sentence.
Q83 Mr Chaytor: Are we doing enough
in primary schools in terms of early assessment and in terms of
passing information to secondary schools?
Mrs Duncan: Yes, the information
is passed to us. If you are working, as we work, on a pyramid
Q84 Mr Chaytor: So you would get
a list of potential bullies?
Mrs Duncan: And people who have
been bullied as well. That is passed to me and then we will keep
an eye on them; do some sort of work to prevent it happening early
on. The only thing that worries me is when I get information passed
about victims of bullying. I had some parents who came to see
me when the child had just joined in Year 7 and said, "We're
very worried about her coming. Our daughter has been bullied at
primary school. We were bullied at school, and we know that she
is going to get bullied here". They had already set that
in her mind. She was waiting to be bullied when she arrived. So
you have to be a little bit careful, because sometimes coming
to secondary school can be a fresh start for children. They can
maybe leave that circle of bullies behind and make that fresh
start. You have to be aware of what has gone on before, but let
us not make it a big issue so that it just carries on.
Mr D'Abbro: My experience of victimslimited
and not of the vast numbers of children that Deborah hasis
that there is often a correlation between the mental health of
their parents and that child, and that they become the symptom-bearers,
in jargon terms, for their parents.
Q85 Mr Chaytor: Given the crucial
significance of parents in all of this, are there examples of
good practice, of working with parents over a period of time rather
than just bringing in the parent to discuss a particular incident?
Is that possible?
Mrs Duncan: The behaviour mentor
lady that I am talking about, I do not see her at work every single
day, but in one of the meetings we had with parents she told the
parents some strategies to use with the child. She said, "When
she comes home at night, I want you to ask her to think of two
or three positive things that have happened during the day".
Because, again, what the parents were doing was saying, "What's
happened today? How bad has it been?". So saying, "Come
on, tell me some positive things. You can tell us the bad stuff
afterwards, but tell us three positive things first". She
has worked in the holidays with groups of parents of vulnerable
children, to give them those sorts of skills. It is not across
the board. We do not do it across the board with parents.
Q86 Mr Chaytor: This is the initiative
of one individual school.
Mrs Duncan: Yes.
Mr D'Abbro: Going back to the
point that Helen made, in the school where we work we have our
own child or family counsellor. I know it was something that was
in Sir Alan Steer's report: the importance ofwe call it
something different, but we would call it someone who is a link
between the school and the family of who is at the school. Our
child and family counsellor will go out and meet parents before
the child comes into the school. So they are actually a bridge,
as it were. Further to the intake conference, they are the bridge,
the facilitator of the process by which the child comes into the
school. We find that has given us vast reams of information about
the child and their family, in the context of their family and
in their home; but also alerts us so that we can be aware of where
there are things that are not written down about the child being
a bully or the child being a victim. On a different model, it
is the same sort of process. It is about saying, "Let's use
other paraprofessionals to support our anti-bullying strategy".
Mrs Duncan: I think that workforce
remodelling is a good thing, which has contributed to helping
children who are being bullied. I have appointed three pastoral
support officers, and they work with two year groups each. They
do that sort of work. They ring home; they are constantly in conversation;
sometimes they go out to the houses. Then I also have my behaviour
mentor. All these people are there all day long, to be able to
deal with issues to do with welfare. In the past, you had a head
of year who had a teaching timetable and would say, "I'm
really sorry you're crying and in a mess, but I'm going to go
and teach PE now. I'm sorry". We have gone past that now,
and we are now employing people specifically to look after the
welfare of childrenwhich I think is a really good thing,
if only we had the money to back that up. However, that is another
argument. We are now doing that and it is a really good thing,
but it does cost money to do it, of course.
Q87 Mr Chaytor: What is the level
of liaison between the staff that you have working in your school
on those issues and the comment that John made about the relationship
with mental health? Surely this is something that goes beyond
the school and needs a multi-agency approach between education
and health? Are there examples of where this is happening now?
Mrs Duncan: John will work even
more so with the agencies, but we work with CAMS; we work with
Q88 Chairman: CAMS?
Mrs Duncan: CAMS is the Children's
Mental Health . . . . I cannot remember what it stands for.
Q89 Helen Jones: Child and Adolescent
Mental Health Services.
Mrs Duncan: We work with them.
We work with educational welfare officers very closely, who come
in to school and then we say, "Can you go and visit this
family?". We work with the youth offending teams. All those
sorts of agencies will come in and liaise with us.
Q90 Mr Chaytor: Do you think the
schools should get a score in their performance tables or their
Ofsted report for the way they do these things?
Mrs Duncan: They do.
Q91 Mr Chaytor: Ofsted reports are
Mrs Duncan: In the self-evaluation
form you have to score yourself on how you manage the personal
and social well-being of children.
Q92 Mr Chaytor: Yes, but parents
are not interested in what you say about yourself; they are interested
in what Ofsted says about you, are they not? Should it be higher
profile in the whole question of information about
Mrs Duncan: Yes, but the whole
point about the new Ofsted is that you score yourself and then
Ofsted will make sure that you are telling the truth. They will
give a score for that.
Q93 Mr Chaytor: Should both your
score and the Ofsted judgment then be public knowledge?
Mrs Duncan: It is public. It is
on the website when you have had an Ofsted. It is there, so they
can see what you have scored: whether you have scored "outstanding",
"good", "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory"
for that particular element of school.
Q94 Chairman: Would you show Ofsted
that list of problems with bullying that you have?
Mrs Duncan: Yes. Once you start
trying to cover up a situation, then I am questioning what is
there to hide.
Mr D'Abbro: If you said to me
that children in our school did not make racist comments, I would
say that is not true: they do. But what actually happens is, if
they do, they are absolutely challenged, both by their peersand
that to me is the evolution of the ethosand not least by
Q95 Chairman: Are you better on anti-racist
Mr D'Abbro: The problem for me
around the bullying agenda is that we do not celebrate diversity
enough as a society, in the broadest sense of the word. I take
what my colleague was saying about anti-homophobia. I am anti
anything that is not okay. If it does not feel right, it is not
right, whether it is racism; whether it is sexism. You must always
challenge what is not okay. I can understand why there is a need
to highlight certain trends within society. If we have a bigger
emphasis at the moment on homophobic inappropriate behaviour,
then let us challenge that; but let us not lose sight of the fact
that all bullying is not okay. As I said earlier, if it does not
feel right, it is not all right. That is where the teachers, my
colleagues and other paraprofessionals have to challenge children
and say, "That's not okay" every time.
Mrs Duncan: In terms of some of
the language the children use and talking about the homophobia,
I do not know if you have noticed this but there is a trend at
the moment for children to use "gay" as a derogatory
term. They say, "Oh, that's really gay". I say to them,
"What do you mean? What does that mean?". I do not even
think they know that it is a homophobic term. They are not using
it like that, but it is common parlance and I always challenge
that and encourage the staff to challenge that as well.
Q96 Mr Chaytor: Can I come back to
the question of training or in-service professional development?
What is your assessment of the quality of the professional development
opportunities in dealing with bullying?
Mrs Duncan: There is plenty out
Q97 Mr Chaytor: Do your staff take
advantage of it?
Mrs Duncan: I tend to target certain
staff who deal with this sort of thing all the time and send them
on that training. Every couple of years we will do a whole staff
training day on it. I have just done one on the new safeguarding
legislation and child protection, and in that we did cover some
things to do with bullying. However, I think that it is patchy
across the piece. I actually do not agree that the headteachers
are trained very well in how to deal with it. I think that I have
learned how to deal with it out of experience, and I cannot remember
the NPQH qualification having anything about bullying in it at
Q98 Chairman: Could you spell that
acronym out for the reporter?
Mrs Duncan: The National Professional
Qualification for Headship.
Q99 Mr Chaytor: Can you tell us what
the National College for School Leadership is doing? You are not
impressed by the
Mrs Duncan: I am impressed by
the National College for School Leadership in many ways, but not
in terms of training headteachers about how to deal with bullying,
Chairman: That is what we want to get
on the record. I want to bring Jeff in here on a supplementary.