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Bullying comes out of the closet in Edinburgh

EDINBURGH has staked a claim to be the first Scottish authority to publish detailed statistics on bullying, last year recording 375 incidents in primaries, 298 in secondaries and 24 in special schools.

Primary children are most likely to be bullied in the playground at mid-morning break or lunchtime but secondary pupils are more at risk in or around classes. The figures represent on average four incidents per primary and 13 per secondary.

Roy Jobson, the city's director of education, said that in launching "Breaking the Silence" Edinburgh was recognising that bullying exists and making efforts to tackle it.

Mr Jobson admitted figures could rise as children and teachers become more confident in reporting and recording incidents. Seventeen primaries and three secondaries reported no incidents.

Kim Callaghan-Thomas, a sixth-year pupil at Wester Hailes Education Centre, said at a press launch: "We all know bullying goes on in schools. I had experience of bullying in first year and did nothing about it. Eventually I spoketo the headteacher and it stopped. I'm now good friends with the people who bullied me." Andrew Mellor, manager of the Scottish Executive-funded anti-bullying network, believed the statistics represent only the most serious of cases. "In primary and secondary schools, research tends to show that somewhere around 10 per cent of youngsters have been bullied in the last couple of months. It tends to peak towards the end of primary and the beginning of secondary in terms of youngsters reporting bullying," Mr Mellor said.

He believed the effects of subtle, psychological bullying in classes could be even more serious than overt intimidation and push pupils to the edge of despair. Teachers may not be aware of it.

Mr Jobson said the figures were only a start. "Unless children can come forward, confident in the knowledge that their complaints and concerns will be taken seriously, bullying will continue to go on in silence."

The city's advice and conciliation service was available for anyone.

Marj Adams, page 25

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