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Bullies ruined my schooldays, says TV's Alan Davies

JONATHAN Creek star Alan Davies described how he became depressed and turned to shoplifting after being picked on at school, as he fronted the Government launch of a new anti-bullying pack this week.

The actor who plays the BBC's magician-turned-sleuth, explained how his own school years at the private Bancroft school, Wood Green, north London, were seriously disrupted after being bullied by a group of boys.

He said: "I became a proficient shoplifter, which filled the time. I would pinch things and flog them to other kids. I think it was being depressed that pre-empted it."

He said that his story would be all too familiar to many: "You don't tell anyone. That's the whole point. My concern is that kids who are unhappy will not have anyone to go to.

"My education really suffered. It wasn't until I got into FE college that I got back on track," he said.

The new guidelines say that headteachers should exclude seriously violent pupils and contact the police when bullying takes place outside the school gate.

Education Secretary David Blunkett acknowledged that previous government advice to headteachers on keeping bullies in school had been wrong. "We have reversed that. We are very happy always to say if we have got something wrong, and on that occasion we had," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The National Association of Head Teachers general secretary avid Hart said: "The Government's statement that exclusion can be an appropriate sanction sends a powerful message to governors and appeal panels who might otherwise be tempted to overturn heads' exclusion decision."

The new pack includes a 25-minute video presented by ex-EastEnders star Patsy Palmer, who was bullied at school. Called Bullying - don't suffer in silence, it shows the importance of a whole-school approach to the problem, promoting the use of peer mentoring and mediation.

Peter Smith, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary, said he regretted the lack of teacher consultation in drafting the guidance.

He added: "It should not be forgotten that a great deal of bullying starts beyond the school gates. There has to be a limit to which teachers can and should be expected to assume the role of surrogate parents."

Shadow education secretary Theresa May said Mr Blunkett's advice had not gone far enough. "He must accept the Conservatives' Free Schools policy, which gives headteachers the power to exclude disruptive pupils without fear of fines and penalisation in league table."

Though welcoming the new school pack Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the largest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers, said: "Mr Blunkett places the emphasis on the role of teachers. But schools alone cannot deal with the totality of the problem."

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