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Squads to help heads tackle bullies

Anti-bullying squads are to be sent into schools by a new national agency which is to dedicate itself to fighting victimisation.

The Government was yesterday due to launch a pound;500,000 national Anti-Bullying Alliance for England amid concerns that heads are not doing enough to tackle the problem.

The alliance will start work in September and co-ordinate the efforts of experts from 50 existing charities, including Kidscape and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

They will train teachers and pupils in the best ways of stopping bullying and resolving disputes.

The alliance will also:

* Research new techniques to tackle different forms of bullying, such as threatening emails;

* Provide advice for parents when their child's school has failed to stop severe bullying;

* Run a national anti-bullying week in November, when the problem is usually at its worst in schools.

Ivan Lewis, junior education minister, said he was concerned that some headteachers were still "in denial" about the problem.

"Bullying is not a part of growing up," he said. "Bullying is not character building. Bullying is physical or emotional assault and can lead to the most tragic consequences."

The alliance will be based within the National Children's Bureau. Nine regional co-ordinators will work with their local schools to decide what training they need.

Gill Frances, NCB director of children's development, will manage the alliance. She said the organisation will have no power to compel schools to undergo training, but will spot those which need help and make recommendations.

"In the past schools have said 'we know we want to do something about bullying, but we don't know where to start because there are so many different organisations'," Mrs Frances said. "Now we have someone they can contact."

The Government wants all of England's 23,000 schools to sign an anti-bullying "Charter for Action", which sets out a series of actions for teachers to take. So far more than 4,000 schools have done so.

ChildLine said that bullying remained the chief reason children rang their helpline and that it had received 22,000 calls about the subject last year.

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