Brown takes on the school bullies
Schools minister Keith Brown has launched a public consultation to develop a new national approach to prevent bullying - while the head of the anti-bullying drive in Scotland admitted it was impossible to eradicate the problem.
The minister told The TESS he felt it was time for a policy "refresh" on bullying, and it was an issue he felt strongly about. As a councillor, he had often dealt with parents in distress because their child was being bullied. "I realised it required just one teacher who was not confident in dealing with bullying, and that pupil suffered," he said.
It was, therefore, important to get consistency. "Some teachers are not confident in how to deal with it and sometimes deny it, and that means bullying does not get the prominence it should," he added.
Speaking at the third national anti-bullying conference held by respectme, Scotland's anti-bullying service, Mr Brown linked the importance of developing anti-bullying strategies with a new Scottish Government campaign, Just Ask, which highlights rights under the Additional Support for Learning Act.
The Act sought to support children with a wide range of additional support needs - from those who had learning difficulties to those who were gifted. Simply because they were different from others, they were often bullied. "I knew a lad at school who was Asian - he wasn't physically attacked, but he was completely excluded because he was perceived to be different," said Mr Brown.
The consultation, based on plans developed by the Scottish Anti-Bullying Steering Group, was welcomed by Brian Donnelly, director of respectme. Research by his organisation had highlighted a lack of consistency on the part of local authorities in monitoring incidents of bullying, he said.
He acknowledged there were fears that such data might be used by some newspapers to collate league tables, but said councils should not be driven by such concerns. It was more important to detect issues and address them.
"Where children are, bullying behaviour will happen," he said. "Our key issue is about the quality of the adults around them and the responses they give to bullying."