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Bullies blight the big school

TEASING AND threats about pupils going up to secondary has forced the early opening of the national anti-bullying helpline at Edinburgh University.

Research shows that the two fears most often expressed by young people who are about to make the transition from primary to secondary are getting lost and being bullied.

Andrew Mellor, manager of InfoLine, and a renowned expert in strategies to combat bullying, said: "The first problem can be overcome by providing maps and holding open days.

"Overcoming the fear of bullying depends on every school acknowledging the seriousness of the problem and teaching young people the skills they need to stop it happening."

Mr Mellor has found that excitement at going to secondary is often overshadowed by fears or threats of being bullied. "Sometimes these are empty threats made by older friends or siblings who have no intention of carrying them out but such teasing is far from harmless if it is believed," he said.

The anti-bullying information line is being opened two weeks before the start of term to help ease anxieties and advise on how to cope.

Professor Pamela Munn, director of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network, who will answer some of the calls, said: "Some very interesting strategies - such as peer support, the no-blame approach and circle time - are being developed in schools.

"But until now information about them has not been readily available to everyone. If all members of a school community co-operate in such strategies there will be less bullying and schools will become more effective learning environments." * WHERE TO TURN TO

The new information line, funded by the Scottish Executive, provides details about how to tackle bullying. It is not a counselling or mediation service.

Young people who are being bullied can call ChildLine on 0800 441111 if they find it difficult to talk to an adult at home or at school.

Parents with problems can call ParentLine on 0808 800 2222.

InfoLine is on 0131 651 6100 and is open on weekdays from 9.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 4.30pm. It is based at Edinburgh University's education faculty.

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