Focus: Campaign of the week - Stopping the scourge of bullying

Indira Das-Gupta, indira.das-gupta@haynet.com

This year, Anti-Bullying Week is focusing on young people and children, and is designed to raise awareness of the increasing scale of the problem.

The campaign's second year began on Monday, with a national conference in London attended by Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner. The conference looked at possible solutions to bullying and featured drama presentations by pupils. The week finishes with Blue Friday, when schoolchildren all over the country will be encouraged to wear blue, the colour of the now ubiquitous anti-bullying wristbands.

Special packs have been sent to every school in England, and pupils and teachers are being encouraged to organise their own themed events.

The week preceding the campaign saw widespread media coverage of the problem, beginning with comments from Aynsley-Green.

He said: "I have had hundreds of in-depth conversations with children since accepting this post, and I can tell you that the one thing every child I have met has been affected by, with virtually no exceptions, is bullying."

His comments were backed up by a survey of 586 children aged between seven and 19 and commissioned by the Anti-Bullying Alliance. It found that 52 per cent believe bullying is a major problem in schools. A similar proportion of children believe schools aren't doing enough.

Vanessa Cooper, national co-ordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said: "We know that many schools are doing their best to address the scourge of bullying. However, as recent incidents of violence show, this is still not good enough."

The week is being co-ordinated by the National Children's Bureau, but the alliance comprises 65 organisations that are also organising their own activities.

Mencap, for example, is running a campaign fronted by the Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley to raise awareness of the fact that children with learning difficulties are easy targets for bullies. The charity has published They Won't Believe Me, a booklet containing advice for parents and staff who work with children with learning disabilities.

Jo Williams, chief executive of Mencap, said: "The current culture of bullying is totally abhorrent. Regrettably, the most vulnerable are often the most likely victims. We must ensure that children with learning disabilities, the most vulnerable of all because they are seen as different, are not bullied - and that, if they are, they do not suffer in silence."

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