The lawyers are at the gates

23rd December 2005 at 00:00
t was not quite a playground confrontation, but there was tension in the air at last week's conference in Edinburgh on bullying and victimisation in schools. Katy McFarlane, a lawyer with the Scottish Child Law Centre, outlined the legal remedies available to young people or their parents if bullying and absence of due care by the authorities could be shown.

Although admitting that no case against a Scottish council has yet been successful, she made it clear that legal remedies ought to be pursued, if for no other reason than forcing greater vigilance on schools. A voice for the consumer Ms McFarlane may be, but the education profession united to condemn her approach. A director of children's services (David Cameron), a psychologist (Alan McLean) and a former headteacher turned academic (Brian Boyd) united in continuing the search for solutions within good school practice.

Their counsel, along with the approach of the Anti-Bullying Network, may be wise. But will parents, frustrated in their complaints, increasingly listen to statute-citing solicitors? We know which side the daily media would be on. Meanwhile, the Anti-Bullying Network faces the end of its Executive funding. Teachers still want its advice and support for patient day-to-day work, out of the headlines and the clutches of lawyers.

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