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Safe zones bid to beat bullies

Schools which sign up to a new anti-bullying charter are being urged to set up safe zones for vulnerable children and anxiety boxes where pupils can report their fears.

The voluntary charter was launched this week by the Government after a spate of pupil suicides over the summer which have been connected to bullying. All schools will be sent the one-page contract and headteachers, chairs of governors and pupil representatives will be invited to sign and send back a copy to the Anti-Bullying Alliance charity.

The charter will not be legally binding, but inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education will check to see if its aims are met. These include that the school supports staff tackling bullying; learns from anti-bullying schemes at other schools; reports back quickly to parents and carers about worries; and ensures that pupils know their concerns will be handled sensitively and effectively.

Material produced by the Department for Education and Skills gives more details.

It suggests that schools should consider setting up special safe places for vulnerable children as well as anxiety boxes where they can report concerns without fear of reprisals. It also suggests that schools record all incidents of victimisation and analyse them for patterns.

Ivan Lewis, education junior minister, said the charters would be more effective than school bullying policies, which he said had sometimes been left on shelves in heads' offices.

He was victimised as a pupil and said: "Bullying is not part of growing up or character-building. It is a physical or emotional assault and can lead to the most tragic circumstances."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said a charter on its own would not deliver results but could drive home the message that bullying needs to be tackled.

The launch of the initiative coincided with the publication of a survey of a 1,000 pupils commissioned by the DfES. It suggests that two-thirds of pupils witness at least some bullying each term, while around a quarter say they see a lot of victimisation.

Common forms of bullying reported by secondary-age children included being called names (73 per cent), being kicked or hit (47 per cent) and getting nasty emails or text messages (7 per cent).

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