Dunfermline Press

More than 6,400 pupils have been bullied at school

Survey reveals scale of issue across Fife

- By Ally McRoberts Reporter amcroberts@dunfermlin­epress.co.uk

THIRTY per cent of Fife pupils who responded to a questionna­ire said they had been bullied at school.

The Young People’s Health and Wellbeing Survey said that 6,480 children across P5-S3 reported they had been persecuted with verbal and / or physical abuse.

And the West Fife family of one pupil who was “very violently assaulted” left the Kingdom altogether after feeling that their child was not supported or protected.

At the cabinet committee last week a number of concerns were raised about Fife Council’s new anti-bullying policy - which says punishing bullies is “counterpro­ductive” - and that not enough was being done to support victims.

Cllr Peter Gulline said: “What does a kid have to do to get expelled now?

“I’ve got one in my ward (Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch) that’s got two charges of assault against them and they’re still in school every day, and still carrying out bullying on a daily basis.”

Shelagh McLean, head of education and children’s services, said: “We can’t expel in Scotland. There’s no such facility so it’s exclusion and we can only do that for a maximum of 10 days at a time and that’s in very extreme circumstan­ces.

“They are required to be allowed back into school.”

She added: “We are a service that can’t actually say no.

“We always need to ensure that every bit of work we’re doing is always leading to young people being back in school and being supported within education both from the point of view of the perpetrato­rs and the person suffering from bullying activity.

“In general, we are limited by legislatio­n in terms of moving a young person out of a school setting.”

As reported in the Press last week, part of the new policy states that school bullies should not experience “negative consequenc­es” due to their behaviour as punishment would be “ultimately counterpro­ductive”.

Cllr David Barratt, who represents Inverkeith­ing and Dalgety Bay, said: “I’ve had cases of really extreme and violent assaults come across my desk, ones that fortunatel­y haven’t made it into the press, and in the experience of parents that contact me the system is not working.

“I think it’s right we have a nurture and trauma informed approach but I don’t know if the balance is right.

“In a recent case in a school in the area I represent a pupil was very violently assaulted.

“The parents didn’t feel like they got the support they should have had from the school leadership team or the council and they found that, shortly after the assault, the perpetrato­r was still right in front of them, walking freely in front of the class and the teachers.

“It wasn’t working for them and their choice was, unfortunat­ely, to leave that school and actually to leave Fife because they didn’t see themselves as having any other option.”

The discussion on bullying comes at a time when the council are also trying to deal with a rise in violence, with more than 3,500 verbal and physical attacks on employees in schools in 2022-23.

Councillor­s agreed to the new policy which will be adopted by all schools in Fife.

It aims to encourage the reporting of incidents, to agree steps to address the problems with the young person and their parents/carer, and conduct a “visible and determined” effort to reduce and resolve bullying.

Ms McLean told the committee: “We’re not shying away from the fact it does happen but the number of occasions when it is so significan­t are relatively low.”

Cllr Cara Hilton, the council’s education spokespers­on, said: “Getting this right is key to ending bullying and violence in our schools and ensuring all young people and staff in our schools feel safe and supported.

“We’re not going to see results overnight but the updated policy is a welcome step forward.”

 ?? Image: Newsquest ?? ONGOING PROBLEM: More than 6,400 Fife kids from P5-S3 say they’ve been bullied in school.
Image: Newsquest ONGOING PROBLEM: More than 6,400 Fife kids from P5-S3 say they’ve been bullied in school.

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