Esther Rantzen is keen to take on bullies

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
ENGLAND should have a children's commissioner to tackle school bullying and give young people a voice in education policy, a committee of MPs and peers has concluded.

The call comes as the Government prepares to decide whether England should follow in the footsteps of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and other European countries.

An ombudsman for children in Norway has proven so successful, that bullying in schools was effectively made illegal in April this year and the Norwegian government has set a target of zero bullying in schools by September 2004.

The parliamentary joint committee on human rights said a children's commissioner for England could also prove a powerful catalyst to stop bullying in English schools. "Despite numerous anti-bullying initiatives, there is an absence of enduring effect," said the committee's report.

The report said that the commissioner would increase children's involvement in education policy, raise their interest in citizenship, and could find solutions to the problems of misbehaviour in schools and the high rate of excluded children.

Plans for a children's commissioner in England have been supported by Professor Tim Brighouse, London schools commissioner, and by charities including ChildLine and Save the Children.

The role was also recommended in the inquiry report this year into the murder of Victoria Climbie, which said that a children's commissioner should lead a national agency for children and families.

Esther Rantzen, the chair of ChildLine, is keen to take on the post. She said: "I know that it's foolish to say this but it is the only job in the world that I would drop everything else for."

However, Paul Goggins, the minister for children and young people, has refused to confirm support for a commissioner, saying that the matter will be addressed in the forthcoming Children at Risk green paper, due to be published early in the summer.

Trond Waage, Norway's ombudsman for children, helped introduce the legislation to allow parents to take Norwegian schools to court if they do not stop a child being bullied within three months.

"The classroom is the workplace for children," he said, "They have a right not to be frightened at their desks."

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