‘Bullies must be educated by schools and parents’: father

The Mandeville School, Aylesbury
The Mandeville School, Aylesbury
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A worried father who says his child is bullied by pupils at The Mandeville School believes more needs to be done to tackle the issue in Bucks.

The father, who The Bucks Herald has agreed not to name, says he has been in constant contact with the school since the bullying began.

He claims that his child is being targeted by a group of students and that anti-bullying policies are proving ineffective.

He says the issue is not restricted to his child’s school and needs to be universally addressed.

The school’s headteacher Andria Hanham says that The Mandeville is working hard to reduce bullying at the school, and that the specific problem is being tackled hands- on by teachers and staff.

Speaking to The Bucks Herald, the father claimed the school was not doing enough to educate students about bullying and teaching pupils to accept that all children are different.

“We as parents need to also play our part by educating our children about the challenges that children face day to day,” he said.

“I feel sorry for some of these students, this kind of behaviour, whilst not accepted, it seems to continue and is not dealt with effectively at school in my opinion, so how are they to learn?

“The school has been in contact with us, and we are in regular contact with them, but I do feel like more needs to be done as they do not want to tackle the root causes of the problem. This is evident as it is the same students and or groups of students who continue to do this.”

The father says that he has considered removing his child from The Mandeville, but wanted to speak out about the issue, which he believes is widespread and that people need to see the truth because without information, we cannot make informed decisions.

He said: “I don’t think this type of thing is just a problem at The Mandeville, but happens all over and we as parents must do better to ensure that our kids are educated and taught how to respect others better”

Headteacher Andria Hanham said: “Due to the instability at the Mandeville School prior to my appointment, there were some ‘historic’ cases of bullying at the school.

“I immediately “took firm control of the school” (Ofsted May 2016) and part of that was dealing with legacy issues of on-going nastiness between a minority of students.

“We have since revised our anti-bullying policy, behaviour policy, behaviour consequence ladder, cyber-bullying policy and implemented a staged response so that bullying is logged and sanctioned at a higher level than before I took over.

“As a result, the culture has changed in part due to the fact that it is therefore taken more seriously by the staff, and students, at the school.

“Ofsted praised this change in approach as was noted in in our full inspection: ‘Where, and if, bullying happens, it is taken extremely seriously by the school.

“Pupils lead anti-bullying assemblies, have set up an anti-bullying club and many met during the inspection were positive about the way bullying is handled’.”

The school’s statement in full:

Due to the instability at the Mandeville School prior to my appointment, there were some ‘historic’ cases of bullying at the school. I immediately “took firm control of the school” (Ofsted May 2016) and part of that was dealing with legacy issues of ongoing nastiness between a minority of students.

We have since revised our Anti-Bullying Policy, Behaviour Policy, Behaviour Consequence Ladder, Cyber-Bullying Policy and implemented a staged response so that bullying is logged and sanctioned at a higher level than before I took over. As a result, the culture has changed in part due to the fact that it is therefore taken more seriously by the staff, and students, at the school. Ofsted praised this change in approach as was noted in in our full inspection: “Where, and if, bullying happens, it is taken extremely seriously by the school. Pupils lead anti-bullying assemblies, have set up an anti-bullying club and many met during the inspection were positive about the way bullying is handled. The Principal is keen to ensure that her sharp focus on bullying (mentioned in her first letter to parents) will be linked to fewer instances of bullying”. (Ofsted November 2015).

Safeguarding of our students is a paramount concern and staff are trained regularly in how to keep our children safe and happy. We communicate to students about being safe, keeping themselves and each other safe and how to speak out when they do not feel safe.

We have been at pains to eradicate pejorative labelling when students tell us about an issue. We have made it clear to the student body, and parents, in various ways that it is essential to pass information on because bullies win when they manage to create fear in their victims who are reluctant to disclose. Generally, working with parents has been successful in enabling us to ‘root’ out individuals.

We have received much positive feedback from parents for the way that we quickly deal with any issues that arise. My Year Leader team is excellent – the staff are both proactive as well as professional in swiftly reacting in response to any whistleblowing that occurs so that issues can be resolved quickly to alleviate anxiety and allow the children to focus on their learning – the main reason for attending school.

We have an Anti-Bullying Committee made up of students who meet weekly – students are referred to them via teachers and Year Leaders and they offer appropriate peer support.

There are ‘quiet zones’ in school which are manned by our Safeguarding Team during social times. Staff are out on duty at social times to talk to students and keep ‘an eye’ on areas around the school. They also do duties at the beginning and end of the school day near the reception area and Ellen Road.

Assemblies regularly touch upon bullying (although the word may not always be explicitly mentioned) to give a message that nastiness and name-calling is not tolerated. We focus on positive behaviour to draw attention away from negativity which is seen to be the exception to the rule. We have the next round of assemblies next week in fact when we will be looking at tolerance and acceptance in relation to British values and modern society. At the core of these assemblies is the regular highlighting of positive relationships and the need for positive behaviour, language and mutual respect – both inside and outside of school.

All year groups have had external speakers re-emphasising positive and negative relationships – we have used the Police, safeguarding team, Senior Leadership Team members, Heads of Year and form tutors. Specific cyber-bullying assemblies have been led by the Vice Principal. The Safeguarding team have led assemblies ensuring all students are aware of who they can speak to. Staff have also been trained by Safeguarding, including the Senior Leadership Team, and we regularly use external speakers.

“Practically all pupils feel safe: many enjoy school life and behave sensibly.” (Ofsted November 2015).

What happens when a child comes to staff with an allegation of bullying? 

In the first instance, statements are taken from all students either accused of bullying or as witnesses. These take place ‘in isolation’ to help eliminate falsification of the truth and sanctions are dispensed accordingly once evidence has been collated. Perpetrators are identified and sanctioned according to our Behaviour for Learning Policy. Parents are contacted, restorative meetings take place where appropriate, and in serious or repeated cases the Police are contacted through the Safer Schools Partnership. If further instances occur between the same parties this leads to further sanctions and interventions.

What is being done to liaise with parents when specific incidents of bullying are raised? 

Parents are regularly kept in the loop via emails, telephone calls and emails as different parents prefer different methods of communication. Year Leaders are extremely good at keeping the lines of communication open and will often make calls well into the evening to keep parents informed of situations and consequences. The Principal’s letter addresses expected conduct every time it is published on the website each fortnight: the theme is often about staying safe, being pleasant and polite and taking a pride in one’s conduct and appearance at all times as a Mandeville student.

What is being done to promote tolerance in school? 

We held for the first time this year National Autism awareness week with a whole day focused on Autism to raise awareness and teach students about diversity. Anti-radicalisation day was held for all students and staff promoted tolerance in assemblies with every individual identifying who they are. Students took part in an identity activity as did the staff on the Inset Day to reflect on their identity – ‘Who Am I?’ and ‘What is important to me?’ We also have a specialised Special Educational Needs team who work with those children whose needs are particular. This includes working on social skills and emotional confidence. Teachers are aware that being tolerant is part of the professional teachers’ standards. Being a school with a diverse ethnic mix and polytheistic credo, we endeavour to accept the views and religions of all in the community. This is reflected in our uniform, in considering different frames of reference in class and in the language that we use.

Does The Mandeville School have a bullying problem at the moment? 

Like in any school, students will have disagreements and fall outs. Hormones and vying for supremacy during maturation (and in adult life) are part of physical biology and human nature. Through young people’s increasing use of social media, normally outside of school hours, and their ability to contact one another at all times of the night and at weekend, such behaviours can have a damaging effect and spill over into the school day. This is a reality that all schools nationally are having to deal with. However, when staff are informed by students or a member of staff that there is a potential bullying issue, the pastoral team will do their very best to resolve the situation as even-handedly as is possible. Being fair and impartial to all families is important which is why full investigations take place to corroborate and make decisions on the balance of probability. Students who are known to have ‘bullying tendencies’ are monitored very closely. Fixed term exclusions have taken place since November 23rd because of identified bullying. These go onto a student’s personal record and would be taken into consideration where further bullying comes to light and is dealt with by issuing more serious sanctions.

At The Mandeville School we want every child to come to school so that they can learn in a happy, safe environment. “Most notable is your relentless focus on making sure that all pupils receive the best possible education” (Ofsted May 2016). Part of this tenacity is our continued drive on kindness and courtesy that we should all show to everyone, every day.