Casenote Bullying


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NSPCC Childline - Casenote Bullying

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  • The first thing you can do to help your child deal with bullying at school is to listen to him or her if he or she comes to you with a problem. You can't help your child to deal with a problem of which you are unaware. And if your child is having problems with school bullies, you listening will mean a lot to him or her.As a way of helping everyone especially the parents, who find it quite hard to manage time, I found this great application which featured a safety app which gets me connected to a Safety Network or escalate my call to the nearest 911 when needed, it has other cool features that are helpful for your kids with just a press of a Panic Button. Check it here:
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Casenote Bullying

  1. 1. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying Key findings • Bullying was the biggest single reason for children and young people calling ChildLine in 2007/08. • In 2007/08, 32,562 children and young people spoke to ChildLine about bullying as their main problem, representing 18 per cent of all calls answered. • Of these 32,562 children and young people who called, 19,994 were girls (representing 17 per cent of all calls to ChildLine by girls) and 12,568 were boys (representing 22 per cent of all calls to ChildLine by boys). • As well as the 32,562 callers, 5,132 children and young people called to talk about another issue but also mentioned bullying as an additional problem. • In total, 37,694 children and young people spoke to ChildLine in 2007/08 about bullying (either specifically or among other subjects), representing 21 per cent of all calls answered. • The number of calls answered by ChildLine about bullying as the main reason for the call has fallen slightly. • In 2007/08, calls about bullying represented 18 per cent of calls compared to 23 per cent in the previous year. This could be a reflection of changes in government policy, the promotion of peer support, or in children accessing help through other sources, such as online services.
  2. 2. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 1. Evidence: what children and young people tell ChildLine 1.1 Methodology When a child or young person talks to ChildLine, the counsellor makes a note of the age and gender of the caller, the main reason that the caller gives for ringing (eg the caller is being bullied) and, where applicable, who the person responsible for or involved in the problem is. Counsellors also note down any additional problems that are discussed subsequently. This information is later transferred onto a database and categorised according to the nature of the problem/s. In the majority of cases, this is the only information that is recorded about callers. However, if the counsellor has concerns about the safety of the caller, feels that they may be at serious risk of harm and/or the counsellor thinks that it is likely that the caller will ring ChildLine back, then more detailed information is recorded and a summary of the discussion that takes place is inputted into the database. Rarely, and only if a child’s life or the life of someone else is being threatened, does ChildLine break confidentiality and refer the child to an outside agency. 2. Statistics This casenote reports what children and young people told ChildLine about bullying between April 2007 and March 2008. During this period, 32,562 children and young people called ChildLine specifically to talk about bullying problems. This represents 18 per cent of all callers, making bullying the most common specific reason that children and young people call ChildLine. In addition to the 32,562 children and young people who called ChildLine in 2007/08 specifically to speak about bullying, a further 5,132 who called to talk about other issues also mentioned bullying as a problem. This places bullying as the single most common reason for children and young people calling ChildLine in 2007/08. The information recorded by the ChildLine counsellors about the call they receive is called a snapshot. If the counsellor thinks that it is likely that the caller will ring ChildLine back, then more detailed information and a summary of the discussion that takes place is also recorded. In total, 900 snapshots were also analysed using qualitative thematic analysis. The findings are not necessarily representative of all calls about bullying problems but they do provide a useful picture of the sorts of issues children and young people experience. In addition to the thematic analysis, two focus groups with a total of 14 counsellors were conducted in order to supplement the data with their unique insights into what issues children face in terms of their experiences of bullying. Where direct quotes from children and young people have been used in this casenote, identifying details have been changed to protect the identities of callers.
  3. 3. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 2.1 Main problems that children and young people discussed during calls to ChildLine in 2007/08 Main problem discussed Calls to ChildLine Bullying 32,562 (18%) Family relationships (including divorce and separation) 22,923 (13%) Physical abuse 17,533 (10%) Sexual abuse 13,237 (8%) Facts of life 11,162 (6%) Concern for others 9,423 (5%) Pregnancy 6,529 (4%) The problem of bullying represented 18 per cent of all calls to ChildLine by children and young people in 2007/08. Numerically, the second most important problem discussed by children was family relationships a , representing 13 per cent of all calls. 2.2 Calls to ChildLine in 2007/08 about bullying Female Male Total Bullying as main problem 19,994 12,568 32,562 (18% of all calls) Bullying as additional problem 3,455 1,677 5,132 Total calls about bullying 23,449 14,245 37,694 (21% of all calls) In 2007/08, of the 32,562 children and young people who called ChildLine about bullying as their main problem, girls accounted for 19,994 of all calls and boys accounted for 12,568. In general, ChildLine receives more calls from girls than boys. The ratio of calls to ChildLine is two girls to every one boy. In addition, of the 5,132 children and young people who talked to ChildLine about other issues but also mentioned bullying as an additional problem, 3,455 were girls and 1,677 were boys. a Further analysis of calls to ChildLine on the issue of family relationships is discussed in the ChildLine Casenote Children talking to ChildLine about family relationship problems. Please visit for further information and to download a copy.
  4. 4. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 2.3 Age breakdown of children and young people who called ChildLine in 2007/08 about bullying Age of child/young person Number of calls about bullying 5–11 years 8,907 calls (40% of callers) where age is known 12–15 years 11,852 calls (53% of callers) where age is known 16–18 years 1,553 calls (7% of callers) where age is known Age unknown 10,250 calls In 2007/08, 11,852 calls (53 per cent of all calls on bullying) were from 12–15-year-olds. Calls from 5–11-year-olds accounted for 8,907 calls (40 per cent of all calls on bullying). Only 7 per cent (1,553) of all calls on bullying were from 16–18-year-olds. For 31 per cent (10,250) of all calls, the age of the caller was unknown. 2.4 Types of bullying mentioned by children and young people who called ChildLine in 2007/08 Family bullying Homophobic bullying Isolation bullying Caller bullying Sexual bullying Boys Racist bullying Girls Extortion Verbal/written threat Physical bullying Name calling/teasing 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 ChildLine callers In 2007/08, 4,504 children (56 per cent) mentioned name calling and teasing as the type of bullying they experienced, with 2,832 of the callers being girls and 1,672 of them boys. It should be noted that these verbal attacks can be as distressing and painful as physical assaults, although the impact is sometimes underestimated by adults. A total of 4,267 children (53 per cent) mentioned physical bullying, with 2,407 of the callers being girls and 1,860 of them boys. A total of 773 children (10 per cent) mentioned verbal/written threats, with 481 of the callers being girls and 292 of them boys. Boys (120) experienced more homophobic bullying than girls (42). Similarly, boys (238) also experienced more racist bullying than girls (168).
  5. 5. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 2.5 Additional problems mentioned by children who called ChildLine in 2007/08 to talk about bullying Disability Cultural/religious Racism Parents divorced/separated Bereavement Boys Depression/mental health Girls Suicide Self-harm Loneliness Family relationship 0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200 ChildLine callers In 2007/08, 5,132 children who called to talk about other issues also mentioned bullying as an additional concern. For example, 1,657 children (5 per cent) who talked to ChildLine about family problems also mentioned bullying as their additional concern. Of these, 1,105 were girls and 552 were boys. Similarly, 644 children (2 per cent) who talked to ChildLine about loneliness as their main problem also mentioned bullying as their additional concern. It is particularly sad that children experiencing bereavement may find that this also makes them a target of bullying. 3. Key issues Bullying has been the single greatest problem encountered by ChildLine for the past 12 years. Bullying may be defined as “The persistent, intentional harming of another person within an unequal power relationship”. 1 The types of bullying fall into a number of categories, including verbal, physical, emotional and non-verbal. Bullying is not confined to schools: it can happen in the home, other areas of a child’s life (for example, sports clubs and youth groups), and in places where children congregate. Increasingly, bullying is also happening via text message and online. Forty per cent of children and young people counselled in 2007/08 were 5–11-year-olds, with 12–15-year-olds accounting for 53 per cent, and 16–18-year-olds accounting for 7 per cent. Of the children and young people counselled in 2007/08, 56 per cent talked about being called names and teased, and 53 per cent talked about physical bullying. Verbal or written threats were reported by 10 per cent of children and young people. A small number of children and young people (122) called ChildLine to talk about their own bullying behaviour.
  6. 6. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 3.1 School bullying A survey commissioned by ChildLine in 2003 found that half of primary school children and more than one in four secondary school students said they had been bullied. 2 Most of the children and young people who called ChildLine in 2007/08 talked about school bullying. For example, one 10-year-old girl said, "People are being nasty to me. The girls in my year at school shout and hit me and stuff.” Such experiences can be humiliating and frightening for children. They are often powerless to stop it, and can also feel isolated and may find it hard to concentrate on their school work. On a positive note, the ChildLine calls on bullying in 2007/08 do show a slight decrease to those received the previous year, which could indicate possible improvements made to tackling bullying. However, children who call ChildLine do still mention bullying in schools as a main concern, indicating that more work needs to be done. 3.1.1 Bullying: policy context across the UK Policy legislation on bullying is different in each of the devolved regions of the UK. In England, Section 61 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998 introduced a legal requirement for schools to have an anti-bullying policy (as part of a pupil discipline policy) from 1 September 1999. Additionally, the Education Act 2002 required schools and local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and subsequent guidance set out that safeguarding the welfare of children “encompasses issues such as pupil health and safety and bullying”. The recent government guidance document, Safe to Learn, specifies that the Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires that head teachers must determine measures on behaviour and discipline that form the school’s behaviour policy. It suggests that policy determined by the head teacher must include measures to be taken with a view to “encourage good behaviour and respect for others on the part of pupils and, in particular, preventing all forms of bullying among pupils”. 3 In Northern Ireland, the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 introduced a legal duty for schools to have an anti-bullying policy in place and to consult with pupils and parents in its development. A similar duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children is imposed on school governors under the Order. There is no statutory duty in Scotland for schools to have an anti-bullying policy, although schools are officially expected to have one in place. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) inspects schools both on policy content and anti- bullying practice within schools. The Welsh Assembly Government has developed anti-bullying guidance called Respecting Others, which aims to provide information on tackling bullying in schools. 4 3.2 Bullying in the community Children and young people talked about bullying taking place in school, but also sometimes mentioned it continuing after school in the community. Some children who attended the same school also lived in the same neighbourhood, which made life difficult for those being bullied.
  7. 7. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying One 10-year-old girl said, “I am getting bullied at school and I live near the bullies so it happens when I go out to play as well. I told the teacher and she said I should avoid them. I don’t feel like going to school sometimes.” Another 11-year-old girl told ChildLine, “I was hit by a bully and have got a black eye. I don’t know what to do.” Bullying can sometimes continue in the park or wherever children go to play. For these children, bullying never stops and continues even in the community that they live in. There is not enough research looking at community bullying, with efforts also needing to be made to tackle bullying outside of school. 3.3 The effects of bullying The effects of bullying mentioned by children and young people ranged from sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety and poor concentration, through to self-harm, depression and suicidal thoughts. Tragically, some children are even driven to take their own lives. Children and young people can feel lonely and find it difficult to make friends. Sometimes, the children and young people who called ChildLine were also dealing with family breakdown or family bereavement and were therefore already very vulnerable – the added pressure of being bullied could make their lives unbearable. Bullying can also affect children and young people’s progress in school. One study reported that primary school children who were bullied were more likely to have disturbed sleep, experience bed-wetting, feel sad, and suffer from headaches and stomach aches. The study reported that the risk of these symptoms increased with the frequency of the bullying. 5 3.3.1 Verbal bullying In 2007/08, 56 per cent of children and young people who talked to ChildLine about bullying called about verbal bullying. Name calling and teasing were types of verbal bullying experienced. The effects of this form of bullying should not be underestimated; it can make children deeply distressed and destroy their confidence. Most of the children and young people who talked to ChildLine about bullying said it made them lose confidence and develop low self-esteem. For example, one 14-year-old boy said, “I am being bullied at school and feel no one likes me. I am always running to hide and cry on my own because I’m called names and am pulled at. I feel suicidal but I won’t do it.” Another 14-year-old boy said, “I am being bullied at school for the past few months by a group of older girls. They are calling me names and saying I am stupid. I told my parents and they rang the school and now I am feeling scared.” 3.3.2 Physical bullying In 2007/08, 53 per cent of children and young people talked to ChildLine about physical bullying. This included pushing, hitting, and kicking. The callers faced this type of bullying on a regular basis, with one 11-year-old boy saying, “I am being
  8. 8. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying bullied since I started secondary school and am pushed, kicked and called names. I often cry and this is making it worse. I don’t have much of a family to help me.” Another boy, aged 15, talked about the various levels of physical and emotional abuse he was receiving at school from his classmates and, in some cases, his teachers. He talked about how little was done and how he felt alone and isolated. The police had been involved with his case regarding the physical bullying incidents but a lot of the emotional and verbal bullying had not been dealt with. 3.3.3 Cyber-bullying Cyber-bullying has become a major concern in recent years. It is a particular method of bullying where mobile phones and the internet are used to cause distress and harm. This type of bullying is becoming more prevalent as the use of technology increases. A UK study of more than 11,000 secondary school pupils from 2002 to 2005, asking them how often they had received any nasty or threatening text messages or emails, showed an increase year on year. 6 There have been a number of studies that have attempted to map the extent of cyber-bullying. Research carried out for the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) in England by Goldsmiths College found that 22 per cent of 11–16-year-olds had been a victim of cyber-bullying. 7 Similarly, research conducted as part of the DCSF cyber- bullying information campaign in England found that 34 per cent of 12–15-year- olds reported having experienced cyber-bullying. 8 There are particular aspects of cyber-bullying that can make the experience more upsetting and distressing for children and young people than other kinds of bullying. These include the fact that, through mobile phones, such bullying can be constant and children can be victims even when they are at home and away from school or friends. Bullying incidents can be recorded and widely circulated via the internet and on mobile phones. In 2007/08, ChildLine received calls from children and young people about cyber- bullying. One 12-year-old girl told ChildLine, “The boy I used to go out with is sending me horrible emails and texts. He says stuff like he hates me and is threatening to show his friends my pictures. He ignores me at school. I hate seeing him. I don't like school any more and I am doing worse in my class work.” These children can be isolated and feel really stressed even when they are at home. They can also feel too scared to tell anyone about what is happening to them. A 16-year-old boy told ChildLine, “They have put comments on the internet site MySpace about me. I want to know what to do about it. I have been bullied in the past and I’m scared I won’t have any friends. I am lonely. I haven’t told anyone.” Another 16-year-old girl told ChildLine, “I am being bullied by a small gang at school and at home. They shout names and are sending me scary texts.” 3.3.4 Self-harm One of the effects of bullying can be self-harm. Self-harm is when children set out to harm themselves deliberately, sometimes in a hidden way, and can include
  9. 9. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying cutting, burning, and bruising. There is always an underlying cause for self- harming; one such cause can be the effect of being bullied. For example, one 14- year-old girl said, “I have been bullied for a long time and feel like I have no self- esteem or confidence. I am feeling sad and angry so I scratch my arms until they bleed. Sometimes I have suicidal thoughts and I have difficulty sleeping. I really want people to know what is going on and I am fed up of constantly being bullied.” Children who self-harmed talked about their anger, frustration, and the strong emotions that they needed to release. One 15-year-old girl said, “I feel I want to die. Because of bullying I am self-harming. I don’t feel my family or friends or anyone listens.” For such children, the bullying had become a major issue and they needed more support. 3.3.5 Suicide Every year young lives are lost because some bullied children simply cannot face the day ahead. It is ChildLine’s aim to encourage such children to call for help before they reach desperation. The impact of bullying can be unbearable for children who develop feelings of depression, isolation and hopelessness. A 16-year-old girl said, “I have been bullied for some years by older bullies in my school. They punch and kick me. It makes me feel suicidal and depressed and I don’t think teachers believe me if I tell them.” Similarly, a 17-year-old girl said, “I am being severely bullied for years. I talked to my parents and the teachers but nothing has changed. I feel isolated most of my life. I feel depressed and have low self-esteem.” Another girl, aged 15, said, “I am being bullied at school by a girl. I am feeling suicidal and I am self-harming. This is all because of bullying. I don’t have anyone to support me.” 3.4 Parental involvement In 2007/08, 1,043 children and young people (11 per cent of all calls on bullying) told their parents about being bullied before they talked to ChildLine. Some parents listened to their children and took action by taking their complaints to their child’s school – either to a teacher or the head teacher – with varying results. However, some parents expected their children to deal with the issue on their own. A 13-year-old boy told ChildLine, “I am bullied at school, on the school bus and when I go out. I have told the teachers but nothing happens. My parents are telling me to stick up for myself. I don’t want to go to school and I am not sleeping well.” Sometimes, children avoid telling their parents what is happening to them so as not to upset them or because they are concerned that things will get worse, such as if the bullies find out. The thought of going to school is occasionally so terrifying that children pretend they are ill or simply refuse to attend. It is important for parents to look out for such clues and to listen to their children. At times, even when parents do go to the school, they do not always receive support and the bullying continues and can occasionally get even worse.
  10. 10. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 3.5 Teachers’ responses In 2003, research from ChildLine and the then Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (now the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)) concluded that anti-bullying strategies in schools in England need to address the realities of children’s experiences of bullying; that they are only effective if the children themselves understand and feel ownership of them; and that more direct work is needed to develop and implement anti-bullying strategies. 9 In recent years, anti-bullying policies have been produced to tackle bullying in schools. Although every school must now have an anti-bullying policy, in 2007/08 a number of children and young people told ChildLine that they were not getting enough help from teachers. They also said that, in their experience, school interventions had not been effective. A 14-year-old boy said to ChildLine, “I am being bullied at school. This is happening all the time. They call me names and I feel really sad, then I lose my temper and I am getting into trouble with teachers. Teachers don’t care – they are really mean.” In some cases, children and young people were scared to tell the teacher due to fear of the bullying escalating. They were also threatened by the bullies not to tell teachers. 3.6 Diversity Sexuality, race, culture, and disability can be factors associated with being bullied. Like many other types of bullying, these focus on aspects of a child’s life over which he or she has no control and can attack children’s sense of identity. The Race Relations (Amendments) Act 2000 requires schools to work towards stopping racial discrimination and promoting race equality. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 requires schools and other public bodies to promote disability equality. 3.6.1 Racist bullying Some children and young people who called ChildLine described being bullied because of their race, colour and/or religion. Racism means treating someone differently or unfairly simply because they belong to a different race or culture. People can also experience prejudice because of their religion or nationality. Research, in mainly white schools, in 2001/02 found that 25 per cent of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds had experienced racist bullying. 10 In 2007/08, 406 callers (representing five per cent of all calls on bullying) talked about racist bullying. Children and young people were called racist names and told to go back home to where they came from. They could become lonely, isolated, angry, and depressed, and may lose self-confidence. They might also become terrified of going to school or going out alone and might even be scared to leave their house. To avoid this they might keep away from situations where racist behaviour occurs and pretend to be ill or play truant from school. Such effects are true of any form of bullying. One 12-year-old boy told ChildLine, “A boy at school is being racist to me. He calls me names and throws stuff at me. I will tell the teacher but I don’t want to tell my family.”
  11. 11. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying Children from different cultures may not want to tell their parents, as in some cultures it may be considered shameful to be bullied. One seven-year-old girl said, “I am being picked on – they call me ‘nigger’. I feel sad. It is a boy at school who lives near me and picks on me regularly.” When children and young people were bullied because of their religion or culture, in some cases this led to them having suicidal thoughts. An 11-year-old girl told ChildLine, “I am being bullied at school. They are calling me names. They take the Mickey out of my religion. Nobody cares. I don’t want to live in this country. I don’t eat. I am having suicidal thoughts.” Some children and young people said that their teachers did not believe them and that the bullying continued even after it had been reported to school staff. A 13-year-old boy told ChildLine, “I am black and they are bullying me at school. They are calling me racist names like ‘nigger’, and now they punch me in the face. My mum believes me but the teachers don’t. I have told the teachers but it is still happening.” 3.6.2 Homophobic bullying In 2007/08, 162 children and young people talked to ChildLine about homophobic bullying, representing 2 per cent of all calls on bullying. A recent 2007 survey from Stonewall, which asked 1,145 young people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual (or think they might be) about their experiences of school, found that 65 per cent of these young people have experienced direct bullying. 11 Children and young people reported to ChildLine that they felt sad, confused and different. A 16-year-old girl told ChildLine, “I have just come out to my friends as gay. Since then I have been treated really badly. They call me names, saying don’t go near them. I am just depressed and low. Sometimes I just feel worthless really.” Further analysis of calls to ChildLine on this issue can also be found in the ChildLine Casenote Calls to ChildLine about sexual orientation, homophobia and homophobic bullying. b 3.6.3 Bullying of disabled children Children and young people were also bullied because of their disability. A report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England suggests that disabled children and those with visible medical conditions can be twice as likely to become a target for bullying. 12 Similarly, Mencap found that nearly nine out of ten children and young people with a learning disability suffer some form of bullying. 13 One six-year-old girl told ChildLine, “Could you help me please? I am bullied at school because I have Parkinson’s disease. They call me ‘Shaky’. You would think everyone would be happy. Why did God make me like this? My sister is the only one who understands me.” Similarly, an eight-year-old boy told ChildLine, “I am being bullied at school about my disability. Other people in my school have different problems but I feel mine is worse. I am in a wheelchair from birth. I also take medicine to help me concentrate b Please visit for further information and to download a copy.
  12. 12. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying in school. I can’t do what other children do. Mum went to school but nothing happened.” Children with learning difficulties and disabilities had to cope with their disabilities as well as suffering from bullying. This made them feel isolated, sad and discriminated against. Some of these children were also worried about telling parents or teachers in case it caused the bullying to get worse. A 12-year-old boy said, “I am being bullied at school because I stutter and other children mimic me. It makes me sad. I don’t want to tell my parents because they will get angry and go to school. Things will get worse.” 4. ChildLine counsellors’ views ChildLine counsellors have a unique insight into the feelings and experiences of children and young people. Dealing with a very wide range of children’s problems, many find the calls they take relating to bullying are among the most difficult. One counsellor said, “When I offer ideas to a child, such as keeping a diary and noting down the bullying when it happens, a child may say ‘I’ve done that, it made no difference.’ Or if I suggest a parent might talk to school staff, ‘They’ve done that too.’ All too often the school itself seems to be in denial.” In this section of this casenote, counsellors discuss what children and young people have told them about bullying and its effects. 4.1 School bullying According to the counsellors, the majority of bullying calls they handle are about school bullying. “Quite often they ring from their schools while it is happening or at lunchtime. Or they ring because the bullying has come to a head and they are frightened to go to school,” said one counsellor. Another counsellor said, “I think mainly we get calls from children at school and a lot of the time on their way to school or on their way home. But mainly it tends to be school- based.” 4.2 Bullying in the community Sometimes the bullying does continue in the community. One counsellor said, “I have had calls where, in smaller communities, bullying has continued outside the school because the bullies live up the road. It is the same people doing the bullying.” Another counsellor said, “Children are bullied on the school bus and bullied in school. We can give children little ideas about keeping themselves safe by suggesting that maybe they don’t take the school bus. Sometimes these small suggestions help them enough and give them self-confidence.” Some community police officers also work inside schools and can talk about bullying with the children.
  13. 13. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 4.3 Cyber-bullying The counsellors also receive calls about cyber-bullying. One counsellor said, “Children are being bullied through the internet. There is texting and email bullying so even though children leave school the bullying continues.” Another counsellor said, “Some of us have been with ChildLine for a long time and we can see the change with technology and cyber-bullying. Children are being bullied through the internet.” 4.4 What has changed? Some counsellors talk about their frustration that, over a period of more than 20 years, children are still telling ChildLine the same stories about their experience of being bullied. This is despite the fact that, for the last ten years, there have been anti-bullying policies in schools. ”I don’t think things have changed,” said one counsellor. “When you ask the children whether there are anti-bullying policies the children say yes, but it still makes you powerless. The frustrating thing is that we still receive so many calls about bullying.” As borne out by the ChildLine/DfES report 14 , the ChildLine counsellors believe that anti- bullying policies must be regularly monitored and effectively implemented to make any difference. Just having a policy can have very little effect. One counsellor said, “Children who ring say that if they talk to someone or tell someone, it may make matters worse and sometimes it does, so it is a real fear – and we can end up feeling frustrated because we can’t do anything.” 4.5 Schools’ responses One counsellor reported, “Often I have heard children say that they have told the teacher but nothing changed.” Another counsellor said, “We do encourage children to keep a diary of bullying incidents. This is something children can do themselves and can be instrumental in helping them to change their teachers mind so that teachers can take things seriously. We are trying to empower the child and the diary can help to be used as evidence.” In another counsellor’s view, it also depends on the way schools handle the bullying. She recalls an instance when, following a call from a boy who was being bullied, she made a conference call to his school and allowed him to talk to the headmaster. This gave a chance for the boy to describe his experience and it was very powerful and extremely empowering for him. Another counsellor said, “We need to think carefully about the way in which bullies are treated. If the bully is simply excluded, the anger may well continue and the bullying behaviour remains unchanged. So I think both need to be helped. The bully also might have issues that need to be dealt with.”
  14. 14. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 4.6 Parental involvement According to some of the counsellors interviewed, some parents do take action and go to speak to their child’s school but some do not get the help they need. One counsellor said, “Occasionally I have taken calls from parents who are at their wits end trying to get the bullying stopped. Often we find that the parents themselves have been bullied during their own life and this brings back an awful lot of things for them.” 4.7 Types of bullying Counsellors talked about different levels of bullying. One counsellor said, “I feel there is an increasing amount of bullying that escalates into fights and violence, even among girls.” Counsellors also talked about children’s fear of telling their parents. According to the counsellors, some children are worried that by telling their parents they will make the bullying worse. 4.8 Why bullying happens According to the counsellors, children can become targets for a huge range of reasons. One reason may be physical: a child is perceived as “fat” or “red haired” for example. Children can also be bullied because they are different, such as an English child living in Scotland, a Scottish child living in England, or a child who belongs to an ethnic minority or is disabled. The bullying can also be provoked by something that is happening at home, such as suffering a bereavement. One counsellor said, “Frequently the young person is feeling very much on their own. They may be in a one-parent family. Mum may have so many problems she can’t cope with an additional bullying problem, so the pressure on the child trying to cope alone may make them ring us.” According to another counsellor, bullying can also be embarrassing when children (especially boys) find it difficult to tell someone about being bullied as it makes them appear weak. 4.9 Self-harm/suicide When a child is experiencing serious bullying they can feel helpless and become depressed and unable to cope. Alarmingly, an increasing number of children present suicidal thoughts and self-harm. One counsellor said, “Some bullying can bring on low self-esteem, self-harm and depression. Bullying often leads to other problems.” 4.10 Diversity Counsellors talked about racist bullying. They said children are sometimes singled out because of colour, religion or culture. They also said they receive calls about homophobic bullying. However, one counsellor mentioned that refugee children may be underrepresented in ChildLine statistics. She said, “I think for refugee children who have just come to the
  15. 15. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying country, helplines are an alien concept. Like children from other minorities, some may be bullied but they may not access the service, and they may have language barriers.” 4.11 What needs to be done? According to the ChildLine counsellors, prevention is best and early intervention is crucial. To achieve this, schools need to monitor the effectiveness of their anti-bullying strategies. They suggested that parents and teachers should work together to provide mutual support and they also suggested that mentoring schemes in schools can be very effective. Peer support and advice services are also important, enabling older children to support younger children about these issues. ChildLine's CHIPS (ChildLine in Partnerships) service supports schools to set up peer support and has proved over the past 10 years the effectiveness of such systems. External evaluation of CHIPS has shown peer support provides an effective person to turn to in school and makes children feel safer, especially in relation to bullying. 5. Recommendations The following recommendations largely apply on a UK-wide basis. However, there are some variations between the different UK countries in the policy context for certain issues. These are set out clearly below. 5.1 UK-wide recommendations 5.1.1 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) should be incorporated into the national curricula across the UK. A clear understanding within the whole school community of the rights of the child, particularly with respect to diversity, is vital – not only in developing anti-bullying policies and practice but also in creating a school ethos built on tolerance and respect. Training for professionals on the UNCRC will help school staff to develop a firm understanding of the convention’s values and principles, and how these can underpin anti-bullying work. All school staff, including school governors, should have an understanding of the convention. 5.1.2 A safe school environment The most effective anti-bullying initiatives are those that form part of a whole school strategy. Alongside devising and implementing anti-bullying policies, all members of the school community, including teachers, support staff, pupils, parents and governors, should be involved in creating and maintaining a safe environment. This requires a culture of vigilance and a clear understanding by everyone of acceptable behaviour. It also requires members of the school community to uphold standards of behaviour as set out in the anti-bullying policy, to prevent all forms of bullying and act swiftly when it does take place.
  16. 16. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying 5.1.3 Anonymous questionnaires: a useful tool for all schools In order to monitor the effectiveness of the school’s anti-bullying policy, and to understand the time, place and nature of any bullying that is occurring, regular anonymous questionnaires are a very useful tool. They should be undertaken at least once a year and should be completed by all pupils. Mapping the problem may well surprise the staff, and will convey ownership of anti-bullying strategies to the children and young people. 5.1.4 The school building may be contributing to the problem Consultation with young people shows that they believe the increase in bullying at secondary level is partly due to the number of “hidden spaces” where bullying happens unobserved. 15 Staff could well make sure such places are regularly inspected. Children and young people (as well as teachers and parents) should be widely consulted about what they need from their school environment. 5.1.5 Adequate and accessible provision of information about ChildLine and the appointment of independent schools counsellors ChildLine offers a crucial, confidential anti-bullying service, which children understand and use. Posters showing ChildLine’s number, 0800 1111, should always be on display. School counselling services should also be provided throughout the UK to give children and young people access to an adult who can help them if they are experiencing or witnessing bullying. Such services, both the confidential helpline and face-to-face support, give children an opportunity to talk to someone before problems get out of hand and counsellors can support children in developing the tools to help themselves and build their resilience and self-esteem. Counselling services should be provided with sustainable funding and be independent of teaching staff, as confidentiality is important to young people. Although physically located in schools, face-to-face counselling services should be independent of schools, thus ensuring that the child's emotional and psychological problems and difficulties are dealt with separately from their educational development. The opportunity to use such services must be available to all children and the specific communication needs of children with learning disabilities should be met with signing and communication techniques. Peer support and advice services, such as ChildLine’s CHIPS (ChildLine in Partnerships) service, are also important and should be rolled out to enable older children to support younger children about these issues. 5.1.6 Bullying outside schools All professionals and agencies should play a key role in challenging bullying and a leading role in developing local strategic partnerships and providing anti-bullying support services. Local authorities should put in place arrangements for independent mediation services to resolve bullying disputes. These arrangements should involve statutory services, schools, and voluntary and community agencies.
  17. 17. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying Mediation services should also be developed using a restorative justice approach c to mediate between children and families who are engaging in bullying outside school. The mediation can involve the pupils, the parents or anyone else who may be involved in the dispute. The staff running the service should be independent and not connected to the school. The mediation service should be linked to local safety groups and youth offending teams, and should be available to all services for children and young people where bullying is prevalent. 5.1.7 Cyber-bullying Awareness-raising materials and campaigns should be developed to help both parents and young people understand how to use technologies safely to protect themselves at home and outside school hours, as well as to support their schools in dealing with incidents. Children and young people should not respond to abusive emails, text messages or phone calls, but should always tell an adult, and contact their service provider for advice on how to block calls. The service provider can also give advice on how to keep emails and texts as evidence for tracing and for possible police action. It is also important that young people keep to the public areas of chatrooms, and never give out personal contact details or post photographs of themselves online. It is important that young people are educated to understand the potential impact of their activities online on others, the ways it can escalate beyond their control and the distress it can cause their victims. Schools should ensure that all staff are aware of the issues and know how to respond to incidents. They should have a named individual who is responsible for cyber-bullying work, including clear policies on reporting and stopping incidents, and awareness-raising activities about the impact and nature of cyber-bullying. Parents and young people should understand how to use technologies to keep themselves safe at home and outside school hours, as well as to support their schools in dealing with incidents. The NSPCC recommends that all computers should be sold with pre-installed safety software and set to a high level of security. Retailers should ensure that customers are aware of different filtering products and the different ways in which they can be set up at the point of sale. 5.1.8 Teacher training Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses should include how to prevent and address bullying. Every school should review its anti-bullying policy every three years and this should include a review of the training needs of staff. Local Education Authorities (LEAs) (in England and Wales), Education and Library Boards (ELBs) (in Northern Ireland) and local government councils (in Scotland) should also assess the content of courses to ensure that staff receive sufficient c Restorative justice – whereby the bully is confronted with their actions and the impact of their behaviour on their victim. There is an opportunity to repair the harm caused and to allow closure by providing resolution to the conflict.
  18. 18. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying training on how to deal with bullying related to disability, race, gender and sexuality. 5.2 Recommendations specific to the devolved regions of the UK 5.2.1 Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) England We welcome the Government’s recent announcement to make PSHE a statutory subject in England for 5–16-year-olds. The forthcoming consultation on the content of PSHE must ensure that bullying is included with the curriculum. Evidence shows that PSHE is an important intervention for preventing bullying. 16 For example, PSHE lessons and activities should be used to raise awareness about the nature of bullying and its effects in order to encourage pupils to think of possible solutions to the problem that are relevant to their own experiences. PSHE lessons can also be used to teach children about their UNCRC rights, as outlined in section 5.1.1 of this casenote. In addition, PSHE can help to develop children's self-esteem, self-confidence and assertiveness; it should address attitudes to relationships and issues of violence and power within those relationships, recognising that bullying, aggression and violence are wrong; and help children understand the importance of human differences and to celebrate diversity. Northern Ireland As part of the teaching of Personal Development (PD), which is a statutory component of the Northern Ireland Curriculum, the Department for Education in Northern Ireland (DENI) should ensure that preventing, speaking out and dealing with bullying is addressed as part of the PD programmes that are offered. 5.2.2 Anti-bullying coordinators Wales Local or regional anti-bullying coordinators should be established across Wales to provide support and advice to schools and other agencies on issues relating to bullying, including disseminating best practice and organising local training events. These roles would help to ensure that Welsh Assembly Government guidance is reflected in practice and that professionals have the support they need to put in place successful interventions. 5.2.3 Anti-bullying policies Scotland A statutory duty should be placed on education authorities and schools in Scotland to develop and implement an anti-bullying policy. In developing the policy, children and young people should be consulted and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) should be required to inspect schools on the school’s consultation and the policy’s implementation, including from the child’s point of view.
  19. 19. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying References 1 NSPCC Services for Children and Young People (SCYP) (2008) Practice Guidance. London: NSPCC. 2 Oliver, C. and Candappa, M. Thomas Corum Research Unit (2003) Tackling bullying: listening to the views of children and young people. Summary report. London: Department for Education and Skills (DfES) ChildLine (2003). 3 Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (2007) Safe to Learn: Embedding anti-bullying work in schools. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). 4 National Assembly for Wales (2003) Respecting others: anti-bullying guidance. National Assembly of Wales Circular, 23/3003. Cardiff: National Assembly for Wales. 5 Williams, K., Chambers, M., Logan, S. and Robinson, D. (1996) Association of common health symptoms with bullying in primary school children. British Medical Journal, 313(7048) 6 July, pp.17-19. 6 Noret, N. and Rivers, I. (2006) The Prevalence of Bullying by text message or e-mail: Results of a four year study. Poster presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Cardiff City Hall, 31 March 2006. 7 Smith, P., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M. and Tippett, N. Goldsmith College. Unit for School and Family Studies (2006) An investigation into cyberbullying, its forms, awareness and impact, and the relationship between age and gender in cyberbullying. London: Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA). 8 Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) (2007) “No hiding place for bullies” [Internet press release]. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Available from: [Accessed 11 November 2008]. 9 Oliver, C. and Candappa, M. Thomas Corum Research Unit (2003) Tackling bullying: listening to the views of children and young people. Summary report. London: Department for Education and Skills (DfES) ChildLine (2003). 10 Cline, T., Abreu, G. de, Filhosy, C., Gray, H., Lambert, H. and Neale, J. (2002) Minority ethnic pupils in mainly white schools. Research report, RR365. London: Department for Education and Skills (DfES). 11 Hunt, R. and Jensen, J. Stonewall (2007) The experiences of young gay people in Britain’s schools: the school report. London: Stonewall. 12 Office of the Children’s Commissioner (2007) Bullying Today: A Report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, with Recommendations, and Links to Practitioner Tools. London: Office of the Children’s Commissioner. 13 Mencap (2007) Bullying wrecks lives: the experiences of children and young people with a learning disability. London: Mencap. 14 Oliver, C. and Candappa, M. Thomas Corum Research Unit (2003) Tackling bullying: listening to the views of children and young people. Summary report. London: Department for Education and Skills (DfES) ChildLine (2003). 15 ChildLine in Scotland (2008) Anti-bullying conference – conference report. Scotland: ChildLine in Scotland. 16 Office of the Children’s Commissioner (2005) Journeys: children and young people talk about bullying. London: Office of the Children’s Commissioner.
  20. 20. Children talking to ChildLine about bullying About the information in this casenote The findings in this casenote are based on detailed analysis of calls to ChildLine from April 2007 to March 2008. Children and young people often talk to ChildLine because they know they will receive a confidential service and that what they say will not go any further unless they wish. ChildLine will always make an informed judgement as to whether the child can give realistic consent to act on his/her behalf. On rare occasions this contract of confidentiality can be broken if the child is assessed to be in a dangerous or life-threatening situation. The majority of children do not identify their whereabouts and maintain their own anonymity. The counsellor will listen and take the child or young person seriously when they call. ChildLine will help the child to talk through their concerns, exploring what might make a difference, and whether there are supportive adults in their lives. Sometimes the child will practise what they would say to increase their confidence in speaking to such an adult. The counsellor will also give the child information on how other agencies can help. If the child wants ChildLine to make contact on their behalf, or this is assessed as necessary, ChildLine will mediate, advocate or refer the child to a relevant agency or person, such as social services, the police, the ambulance service, or a parent or teacher. ChildLine’s data is not comprehensive, as the main priority for helpline counsellors is to provide comfort, advice and protection to the caller, not to gather demographic or other information for research purposes. The content of ChildLine counselling conversations is captured through written records. Every time a counsellor speaks to a young person, the counsellor notes the main reason the child called, any other concerns raised, and details of family and living circumstances revealed by the child, and a narrative of the discussion. Conversations are child-led and not conducted for the purposes of research; but it is for precisely these reasons that they often reveal information that formal research might not uncover. ChildLine provides a confidential telephone counselling service for any child with any problem, 24 hours a day, every day. In February 2006, ChildLine joined the NSPCC as a dedicated service, in order to help, support and protect even more children. ChildLine continues to use its own name, and the 0800 1111 phone number remains unchanged. Volunteer counsellors continue to provide a free 24-hour service for any child or young person with a problem. For more information, please contact the NSPCC Library and Information Service on: 020 7825 2775 or email: or contact the NSPCC Media Team on: 020 7825 2500, email or visit: All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of callers. © NSPCC Nov 2008