Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
10 MAY 2006
Q100 Jeff Ennis: Just a quick supplementary
on the line of questioning that David has just pursued, particularly
aimed at Deborah. Do you at any point in time discuss bullying
in the pyramid meetings that you have with the primary schools
at your school?
Mrs Duncan: Yes, we do. It is
usually because there is maybe an initiative coming up, or for
that reason. In terms of when we get that data about who is being
bullied and who is being the bully, that comes as written data
usually; or, when we are taking in children's special educational
needs, then we do have one-to-one meetings and that is discussed.
Jeff Ennis: So you do not discuss it
across the pyramid on occasionsokay.
Chairman: You are impressing me so much,
I think that you ought to come in and look at the Parliamentary
Labour Party. We only have about 5% of bullies, but they are a
bit of a nuisance!
Q101 Mr Marsden: I have only just
escaped from the dentist, so forgive me if these issues have been
touched on before. Deborah, I wonder if I could ask you, in terms
of the sort of bullying that you are dealing withobviously
there is a range of bullying, there is verbal, there is psychological,
there is physicalin terms of your strategies to deal with
it, and in terms both with teachers and with your support people,
do you think you need different strategies with each of those
groups to do it? Are there core principles that apply whether
it is verbal, or psychological or physical, or indeed whether
it is a mixture of all three?
Mrs Duncan: The core principles
are always the same: that it is not acceptable. I always say this
to the children and the staff. If we are going to work in the
schoolI have just over 100 staff altogether and nearly
1,100 childrenwe all have to get on with each other and
have respect for each other. So the core principles are always
the same: it is not tolerated. How you deal with it is different.
I have had an incident this year where I have had to exclude somebody
permanently, because they have physically assaulted somebody else
so violently that I could not let that child stay in the school.
That is a different punishment to somebody who maybe is just name-calling.
They still get punished, but at different levels.
Q102 Mr Marsden: That is in terms
of the perpetrators. I am also interested in terms of dealing
with the children who are being bullied. I notice in your biography
that you say that you have pastoral support officers, who obviously
help those children in that position. Again, in terms of the types
of bullying, does that require a different approach, whether it
is from teachers or whether it is from your support officers,
in terms of dealing with children, depending on the type of bullying?
I am thinking particularly in terms of training.
Mrs Duncan: I do not think that
it necessarily needs lots of different approaches, because often
a low-level bullying situation can then become one of physical
Q103 Mr Marsden: Do we have any statistics
on that progression at all?
Mrs Duncan: I have not. I do not
know if there are any out there.
Q104 Mr Marsden: Do you know, John?
Is this the sort of thing where there are statistics out there
as to the extent to which one sort of bullying then develops into
Mr D'Abbro: Some of the evidence
we had earlier suggests that there are some correlations, but
I think the consensus was that some of the evidence we have is
Chairman: We got something on the record
from Kidscape and others in the earlier session but, you are right,
it is still patchy.
Q105 Mr Marsden: Coming to you, John,
and looking at your biography and your particular involvement
with children with BESD, as you may know, we are currently conducting
an inquiry into special educational needs. As part of that inquiry,
the whole issue of children with SEN being taught in mainstream
settings as opposed to special school settings is obviously a
big issue. I wondered whether you had either any views or any
evidence as to whether the increasing integration of children
with SEN into mainstream schools over the last 15 to 20 years
correlates in any way with levels of bullying against them; or
indeed what views you have about whether children with SEN in
mainstream schoolsspecial schools as well, but specifically
in mainstreamface particular problems and difficulties.
Mr D'Abbro: How long have you
got? Ideologically, I wish we did not have special schools. That
would give me early retirement! I believe in a concept that, when
we segregate children within our society, we actually perpetuate
a culture which says some children are different from others,
in a negative way rather than a positive way. In an ideal world,
therefore, we would not have segregated provision. However, some
children cannot be worked with within the mainstream sector, even
because of their own disability or because the schools are not
teed up for it. So I do believe that it is okay to have special
schools within the way our culture runs. My own view is that I
do not think there is any evidence to suggest that, when more
children with disabilities take up their place within mainstream
schools, there is a correlation with bullying. Having said that,
some of the children we work with, as and when they go back to
mainstream schools and they get mainstream opportunities, sometimes
say, "The care that we get within this special school is
better than the care that we get within a mainstream school".
No disrespect to my mainstream school colleagues but, in a school
where there are 80 children and 50 adults, you will get more individual
care than in a school where there are 100 adults and thousands
of children. I think it is about saying what is the most appropriate
environment for each individual child. It is not a cliché,
but all children have their own special needs and all children
are special. Lots of children can work in mainstream schools,
get their needs met and be very effective, and some children need
something different. I do not know if that answers the question,
but I do not think that, because there are more children with
special needs and disabilities in mainstream schools, there is
Q106 Mr Marsden: It is also true,
is it not, that children can besometimes unthinkingly,
sometimes deliberatelyvery cruel in picking out aspects
of what they regard as physical or indeed behavioural difficulties?
That is obviously a factor. Deborah, in terms of your schoolI
have no idea how many children you have in your school who are
statemented or with SENin your experience, does this form
a significant part of a bullying pattern? If so, do you have a
particular strategy to deal with it?
Mrs Duncan: I think that it is
on an individual basis, really. Sometimes children who have special
needs can be bullied in the mainstream, because of the facts you
have talked about and because we do not have the staffing levels
to be able to give them that sort of individual help. I have one
girl in my school at the moment who has Kabuki syndrome. She is
a very small girl and she has particular features. The students
go out of their way to look after her, to look out for her, to
help her, to be kind to her. There has been no evidence of bullying
with her. It is almost the other way: they all love her and they
all look out for her. Yet there has been an example of one boy
who has had to go from my school to a special school, because
he was so weak in his ability to access the curriculum. So he
could not go into the mainstream classes with the children; he
had to be in our base, which is our SEN area. He could not interact
with the other children because they did not understand his needs,
and he did get bullied and then also became a bully back, because
he was hitting people who were making fun of him. So I think that
it is very much on an individual, case-by-case basis.
Q107 Mr Marsden: Do you think that
things have improved across the piece? I just think back to my
own school days and some of the people I was with who perhaps
had very, very slight physical or behavioural difficulties. Other
children can be very cruel in picking on those sorts of things.
We have become much more aware, in the best sense of the word
we have become much more correct, about the way in which we deal
with not just children with disabilities but with people with
disabilities. Do you think that is reflected sufficiently in the
system or do we actually need to do more, does the department
perhaps need to do more, in terms of focusing on those children
with special educational needs so that they are not the focus
for bullying or intimidation?
Ms Duncan: I am thinking how we
could help the situation more, and I know I have already said
this once and I should not say it again, but it comes down to
funding. If you have got enough staff there to give them that
help, attention and support, then it will make their passage through
the school easier, if they have got special educational needs.
Q108 Chairman: You have already said
that you have got a lot more resources than you used to have.
Ms Duncan: Did I?
Q109 Chairman: You did. I think you
gave an answer to Helen that there was a time
Ms Duncan: The head of year.
Q110 Chairman: The head of year.
Ms Duncan: I was saying that I
have chosen. It is probably another topic.
Q111 Chairman: You have got more
support staff than you used to have, surely.
Ms Duncan: Yes.
Mr D'Abbro: Schools are much more
complex institutions than they were 20 years ago.
Ms Duncan: They are more complex,
yes, but I just have chosen to spend the money on them instead
of something else. It does not mean to say I have got more resources.
I have to manage my budget in a clever way so that I have got
these pastoral support officers.
Q112 Stephen Williams: Something
that we have not really looked at so far is emotional support
for the victims of bullying. What guidance is available to schools
for the different emotional needs of different types of victims?
There is a clear indication from the evidence that we have got
from each of you of what is the difference between being black
and being gay. The answer is that you do not have to tell your
mother that you are black. If you are a gay pupil or a pupil who
is perceived as being gay and you are bullied, you have different
emotional needs to other categories of people who are being bullied
because you might have a peer group you can relate to, but when
you are 14, 15 or 16 you probably have no idea at all in your
school whether any other people in your class or in your school
are in the same situation as you, and you have got no-one to empathise
with. Is there any guidance available to schools as to how they
are meant to support people in that situation?
Ms Duncan: Not really any very
clear guidance. There are always opportunities for professional
development for staff to go and train on specific areas of bullying,
like homophobic bullying; but, no, we do not really have mechanisms
whereby we could have a gay support group in school because I
think the legislation is still hanging over us that we are not
supposed to be encouraging students to be gay but we want to support
them if they are, type of thing. We have not got the type of system
where we can get them together so they can support each other,
you are quite right, whereas if you are black, you can get together
with other children who are black and support each other. No,
I cannot think of any instances.
Mr D'Abbro: To go back to your
point, I mentioned the quality of the relationship that the teacher
has with his or her students, and I would like to think everyone
in the room can have thought of someone at their school who they
had a relationship with. I think it is about the leader creating
an ethos within their school that says every child will have someone
who they can relate to, either an older peer or a mentor or a
teacher or another paraprofessional who is in the school, so that
you ensure that everyone has got someone they can go to. It is
easy for me to say that in a smaller setting than in a larger
setting. I would imagine most of us went to large schools at some
stage in our school career and we can all think of someone we
could have gone to, and I think we have to maximise those opportunities
within school life.
Ms Duncan: For children who do
not make friends naturally, we do artificially pick somebody else
out in their class and say, "I want you to stick by them
and look out for them and look after them", and so we make
sure they are not entirely on their own.
Q113 Stephen Williams: Basically,
the answer is that there is not any guidance all from DfES on
how to emotionally support the victims of bullying.
Ms Duncan: I do not know. If there
is some out there, I have not seen it.
Q114 Stephen Williams: You are the
sort of head who would actively seek it out?
Ms Duncan: I hope so, yes.
Q115 Chairman: Are you surprised
that the evidence that was presented in the first session shows
that there is more bullying in the lower schools, in the primary
and junior schools, rather than in secondary?
Ms Duncan: Yes, I am actually.
Q116 Chairman: I imagine, like all
behaviour, the earlier we crack it and confront it and deal with
it the better.
Ms Duncan: Yes.
Q117 Chairman: Is that part of your
feeder school relationship?
Ms Duncan: Absolutely. As we talked
about before, we do discuss it as a pyramid. We do share the information
with each other.
Q118 Chairman: John, you are not
Mr D'Abbro: I am not surprised,
no. I think the manifestation of the bullying that we see in secondary,
in my experience, has started much further down in the primary
sector, and, in some cases, God forbid, pre-school. We are now
beginning to identify that within some of the pre-school groups.
Some of our colleagues are beginning to assess children who they
think will not have the right skills and the right competency
of getting on with people when they are actually coming into the
school; and that raises questions about the parenting and nurturing
experiences that very young children are getting or are not getting.
Q119 Chairman: This has been an excellent
session. Thank you very much for your evidence. I am afraid you
have been so good you are in danger of members of this Committee
popping in to see your school, Deborah, particularly the Yorkshire
dwellers here, but you also, John, because you are not too far
from here. Thank you very much for the information you have given
Ms Duncan: Thank you.