Olivia and Rhys 


CURB (Children Under Risk from Bullying) was founded in October 1991, and officially launched May 1st 1996 from Cardiff Central Police Station. It started off as a relatively small organisation.  


May 1st 2009 CURB celebrated its eighteenth birthday as an anti-bullying Organisation for children.


Over the eighteen years of CURB’s existence, I have witnessed a change in the attitude towards the bullying of our children in the school environment but there is still a very long way to go.


Every year when CURB’s Annual Report is due I take a great deal of time and care to think about how I should approach and prioritise the different aspects of bullying.


I strive to remain objective when dealing with relevant organisations such as schools, local authorities, government departments, the Police and other agencies. Regrettably my submissions are not received with the same objectiveness and the whole area of bullying seems to be treated with a cavalier attitude.


Data CURB has collated over the last eighteen years has shown that

  • The numbers of combined physical and psychological attacks has risen significantly over the last ten years 
  • The child aggressor has learned to inflict as much physical and psychological pain on their victim 
  • The bullies have become more calculating and manipulative within their acts of violence 

Revisiting this data I can only express my relief that the extent of the bullying has not yet resulted in the loss of a young life. But unless the authorities radically reform their attitude to the handling of these cases, it can only be a matter of time before they are expressing their shock and sorrow at the death of a child at the hands of bullies.


In this year’s report I wish to bring attention to two senior schools. Both schools have Anti-Bullying Policies and procedures to implement should a case of bullying be identified.


I am focussing on the bullying of two eleven year old children, a male whom I shall call Rhys and a female whom I shall name as Olivia. They are from dissimilar family backgrounds with one family living in a rural setting the other in the heart of a city town centre.


Olivia and Rhys transferred to their High Schools with enthusiastic expectation, but what followed was to not only shatter their young lives but to desecrate their family units.


Within weeks of Olivia and Rhys starting High School, they became victims of the most brutal and vicious forms of physical, mental and emotional abuse! And it was their friends who were not only the instigators of the systematic bullying, but the ones who kept the reign of terror going for the duration of their school lives.


It wasn’t long before both of these children were being subjected to daily abuse at the hands of their peer groups. In Olivia’s case she endured the following torment on a regular basis:


  • Her shins were black and blue from the kicking   she received while sitting at her desk
  • At any and every opportunity she was stabbed with anything sharp that they could get their hands on - pens, pencils, maths compasses etc.
  • Whenever she was walking in areas of the school that were out of sight of others such as in corridors or in the toilets, she was punched on any area of the body or face they could access
  • She had clumps of her hair ripped out from the roots
  • Chewing gum and food i.e. cheese was tangled up in the hair
  • She was held down while her face was drawn over with biro/marker pens
  • Her school lunches were taken
  • Her coat was removed, thrown into the mud and stamped on
  • She had property such as her bus pass and money stolen from her schools bag
  • She had to endure both racial and homophobic attacks


This persisted, culminating in Olivia writing a suicide letter, which was discovered by her mother in her school bag.  This was the first indication Olivia’s parents had of what their daughter had been going through.  They might have remained in ignorance for a while longer because this note had been stolen from Olivia’s bag and the contents broadcast over the school.  But for whatever reason it was eventually returned to her bag.


Several meetings at the school were held, promises made to investigate and put a stop to the bullying, but it appears that nothing whatsoever was done!


Regardless of Olivia’s parents several telephone calls, visits to their daughter’s school, including numerous letters of complaint’ to the:


  • The Headteacher
  • The School’s Board of Governors
  • The School’s Complaints Committee
  • The School's Intern Education Director
  • The Director of the Local Education Authority
  • The Education Minister
  • MP

All receiving copies of all the relevant correspondence, but it still, did not not stop the extreme bullying Olivia was subjected too; in fact; quite the opposite!


Olivia’s parents also contacted their local police station who filed the details on their computer base. Certain key words used alerted the Racial and Homophobia Unit (RHU) who contacted Olivia’s parents and interviews were arranged for Olivia, including video evidence.


Olivia’s mother attended a meeting with the Headteacher.  A police representative from the RHU also attended, (purely in the role of an observer).    During this meeting Olivia’s mother had expected to discuss her daughter’s bullying and the steps that would be made to stop it.    She also wished to express her concern at the manner in which her complaints had been dealt.


However, the Headteacher basically, threw the meeting by initially asking what the sex and age of the child was because the Headteacher was not familiar with the parent's surname and/or why the meeting had been requested!  


Olivia's mother reminded the Headteacher of the numerous letters that had generated between them regarding the prolonged bullying her daughter has been subjected too and the most recent letter regarding her daughter's suicide letter that had been passed around the school!


The Headteacher response to this: - 

  • "It would be a breach of confidentiality to name or to discuss the child in whom Olivia confided with regards to the suicide note".

Basically, the Headteacher had made no preparation for this meeting, had not read Olivia’s file, did not have it in the meeting and the Headteacher refused to have Olivia's file brought in.  The meeting was terminated with nothing being accomplished.


While Olivia’s parents were striving to alleviate their daughter’s plight her position had been seriously compromised by her aggressors who had fabricated a story to discredit her and made unfounded allegations that Olivia was now bullying her peers.


This is a copy of one of the children’s allegation, the others being remarkably similar.   (All names have been changed): -


Me and my friends found our friend Lisa by a bush laughing and talking to someone.  We went over to Lisa to talk to her and Olivia was in the bushes kissing a boy called Tom.  Olivia then proceeded to swear at Dean and tell him to get lost but using more colourful language!


I only heard this as I had walked away when I saw what Olivia was doing in the bushes.  But I was in earshot for the rest of lunch and I was utterly disgusted at the fact that she called Dean (excuse my language) a lesbian.


I do not think Olivia’s behaviour is appropriate at all and she cannot be  allowed to get away with this!


Dean had a totally unreasonable sanction for doing the same to Olivia  and I think she should have the same punishment.  And not to forget to  mention all the other awful language Olivia used.


I am not suggesting  what you must do in the way of Olivia’s punishment; I am only  expressing discomfort about this situation and this sum up this incident involving Olivia.


I admit this statement may look like vengeance on my part for the  incident in Year 7, but I thought we were behind that and I am only  making this statement because I am upset that one of my friends is now  being bullied


Also I feel that Olivia must have a guilty conscience to immediately notify  her parents that she was in trouble when she didn’t know what we were  going to report her for.


I would like to apologise for anytime  that we have wasted reporting a bullying issue.


Following the above setback, Olivia’s parents also received a letter from the Chairperson of the Governors in response to the parents' complaint against the Headteacher, which stated: - 

  • After speaking to the Headteacher and looking at the evidence I have concluded there is nothing more to add. Therefore, there is no further action to be taken and we wish Olivia well in her future studies

With no support forthcoming from any quarter and with this new threat from Olivia's aggressors the parents felt that there was nothing else to be done but remove their daughter from the school.   However, their battle for justice continued.


The Education Minister visited Olivia and her parents in their home and through the minister’s intervention contacted the School's Intern Director of Education.  The school's intern director contacted Olivia’s parents telling them he would speak to the school governors after which he would be in touch with them again.


But when he did so, it was to inform them that they had failed to follow the correct procedure for submitting a complaint and would have to make a formal complaint to the Clerk of the Governing Body.


Olivia’s mother insisted they had already written a letter of complaint however, the director dismissed this because it had not been addressed to the correct committee member on the school's governing body!  (As if it was not possible for it to be passed to the right quarter).


So Olivia’s parents wrote a second letter the essence of which is as follows: -


Dear Board of Governors,


Re: Official Formal Complaint 


As Olivia’s parents we have now had to prioritise our second complaint to address what we believe to be, the School, especially the Headteacher’s and Governors miss-management of our initial complaint of the persistent Bullying of our daughter Olivia by her peers during her time spent in your school!


As Olivia’s parents we now feel the following issues require the committee’s urgent attention.


 Olivia’s School Records


We believe that Olivia school records have followed her to her new school, and are extremely concerned that they may contain negative, fabricated and inaccurate remarks that were entered by school staff!  Therefore, as Olivia’s parents we are requesting that the: -

  • Negative, Fabricated and Inaccurate Remarks be removed Immediately with a letter from the Board of Governorsconfirming that this has been done 

We will however agree to an Official Appendix being added to Olivia’s school records clearly stating that: The Negative, Fabricated and Inaccurate Remarks entered into Olivia’s school records are incorrect that these remarks were wrongly entered and the official appendix to be signed and dated by the  Headteacher and The Chair of The Governing Body


The unprofessional behaviour of Olivia’s Year Teacher who treated our daughter with sarcasm and ridicule, coupled with his insistence in making Olivia apologise to her Bullies/Aggressors when she had nothing to apologise for!

When Olivia approached her Year Teacher to speak him and before she could say anything the Year Teacher stop Olivia in her tracks and in an abrupt fashion humiliated her by making the following statement that: -

  • "He had only just got rid of her from his class and now she is back again leaving Olivia feeling demoralised by his words to say the least"!

During one of our visits to the school we had informed Olivia’s Year Teacher that Olivia had a hearing impairment. The Year Teacher agreed he would inform all teaching staff of this. However, when we approached the Year Teacher during one of the follow up meetings with the school and asked if he had managed to notify all members of staff of Olivia’s hearing difficulty his reply was not constructive and quite sharply delivered that: -

  • “He could not make staff read his memos”!

Because of our concerns at the above remark we advised our daughter that: -

  • If she had trouble hearing what her teachers were saying during her lessons that she was to raise her hand and ask politely if the teacher could speak up”. Olivia did what we suggested, but during a maths lesson Olivia raised her hand and asked the teacher if he could speak up.  The Maths teacher’s response to Olivia’s request was simply  "NO"!

Olivia’s cousin expressed concerns to Olivia’s  English Teacher about the way Olivia was being treated by her peers, especially on the school bus, especially taking Olivia’s bus pass off her.  The English Teacher arranged with Olivia and her cousin to discuss their concerns at  break-time in the playground.


However, the English Teacher cancelled their meeting at the last minute because she had playground duty, but the English Teacher, for whatever reason, never followed up with a further meeting to discuss the concerns Olivia’s cousin had about the way Olivia’s peers were treating her.


A second English Teacher also employed at the school had written in Olivia’s school records that there were serious concerns with regards to the bullying Olivia was being subjected too.   Olivia’s Class Teacher also wrote in Olivia’s School Records that the Bullying situation in relation to Olivia needed intervention as soon as possible.  None of these written concerns were followed up!


The schools’ Supply Teacher, was approached by Olivia in a distressed state begging for help due to the same peer group who have been systemically bullying her had stolen her bus pass again.  The Supply Teacher ignored Olivia’s pleas for help, but he did take time out to ask Olivia:

  • Why she couldn’t deal with this bullying problem in her own time

The majority of staff were fully aware of Olivia’s prolonged bullying and who the bullies were, but they still insisted (due to the schools rule of their seating plans): -

  • Made Olivia sit next to those who were systemically inflicting physical and psychological harm

We contacted the school on three separate occasions to speak to the Headteacher, but the Headteacher was never available and even though we were assured that our our calls would be returned, it never happened.  However, after the advice from their local police service who urged us to keep trying we did finally receive a call from the Headteacher.


The Headteacher made feeble excuses for not initially responding to us, but we  did manage to arrange a meeting with the Head, but suffice to say, it was a fruitless meeting as the Headteacher declined to discuss the prolonged and uninterrupted bullying of our daughter Olivia


The Headteacher also admitted that: -

  • "I had no idea who Olivia was; or I haven't had an opportunity to read the your daughter's file".

In fact initially the Headteacher was of the opinion my child was a male!


The Board of Governors:


As already stated a letter of complaint was sent by us to the Board of Governors on 25th August, 2008, requesting a meeting to discuss the seriousness and escalating of the bullying our  daughter was subjected to and handling of same, coupled with the way their complaint was being/is being handled!


After we made a telephone call to The Governors Services, an officer from the governors services contacted the Chair of Governors to enquire as to why there was no response to our letter of complaint.

After the said officer's intervention the chair of governors eventually responded and sent a letter dated 5th November 2008 (some eight months after the initial complaint was sent), stating that she had spoken to the Headmaster and having heard his version of events  The Chair of Governors felt that: -

  • "One could not add anything further and basically after discussing matters with the Headteacher she was equally of the same opinion and that the matter is now closed” and our request to meet with the Board of Governors was subsequently denied!

It has taken three different units within the local Police Service, coupled with an MP and a Senior Minister who once become involved contacted the The School's Intern Education Director to intervene before we were granted  an audience with the: -

  • Complaints Committee On behalf of the Governing Body’!

The Anti-Bullying Policy -  We waited approximately ten working days for a copy of the schools Anti-Bullying Policy because the: -

  • Year Teacher had to dig it out as he wasn’t sure where it was kept

Equally that the staff had no idea how to fill out school incidents forms and if members of staff did manage to record an incident it was normally written on scraps of paper and filed in various locations, other than Olivia’s school records.


During yet another meeting at the school this time with designated Teacher who had difficulty defining what she believed ‘Bullying’ was!  But to add insult to injury the designated teacher implied that maybe the problem lay with us because we had a problem because of our ‘Perception of Bullying!


It also came apparent to us that the teaching staff’ was unfamiliar with or basically had no idea what the Orange Bullying Incident Report Forms were as written into the school’s Anti Bullying Policy.


The Deputy Headteacher and Olivia’s Year Teacher stated that there were only had a couple or maybe three incidents recorded relating to Olivia’s bullying, but this is not the case as we received several recorded incidents from the school via the post that not only highlighted how bad the Bullying of Olivia was, but these added recorded incidents were found in offenders’ files not Olivia’s therefore, we were forwarded confidential information relating to other pupils at the school!


The Anti-Bullying Policy also states that:

  • Parents and Guardians of victims of bullying would to be informed of any serious or prolonged bullying.  We were never informed!

Olivia should have been offered help and support from: -

  • Sixth Form Buddies, Peer Mentors, Leaflets, and a list of Sanctions for Bullies. This never happened!

The School Complaints Procedure


We followed the procedure stated in the Complaints Document 5.4 to the letter, but we believed we were “deliberately misinformed”.  The school stated in their complaints procedure that parents should receive acknowledge of our written complaint within two working days of receipt.  This never happened.


Our daughter suffered prolonged abuse every day for Three Years while attending your school and no one we approached did anything constructive to protect our daughter.  In fact the whole procedure and those we approached have been blatantly destructive, while doing so place our daughter in grave danger.  


Once we realised the gravity of Bullying and degree of abuse Olivia was subjected to by several members of her peer group I am sure you will appreciate how mortified we were and still are!


If it wasn’t for the police units being involved and the school panicking in the way they did by sending all they knew they had on file relating to Olivia (regardless of whose file Olivia’s information end up in), we would have never known the full extent of our daughter’s living hell!


If the Physical and Psychological Abuse Olivia suffered for three years wasn’t bad enough, the devastating and long term impact this has had; and will continue to have; not only on Olivia, but our family unit generally is tremendous and totally unaccepetable!


To find that the school knew for some time prior to us finding out of the high level of Bullying our daughter was subjected too is appalling if not downright criminal.


Copies of Olivia’s school file that were forwarded to us by the school, clearly indicate how many incidents there were, and the school/staff did nothing to help, protect or even take the time to notify us of how serious our daughter’s plight was!


The school reports equally show that there was little or no action taken against the offenders by the school/staff!  Therefore, again in our opinion and due to the school/staff lack of concern or ability in dealing with the matter of bullying there is no doubt the school place our daughter’s safety and wellbeing in/at serious risk!


Due to the lack of appropriate action taken by the school in securing Olivia’s safety and wellbeing we believe at the very least the school has failed in their legal ‘Duty of Care’, towards Olivia in keeping her ‘Safe and Protected’!


Also due to The School’s, (especially The Headteacher) lack of ‘Legal Responsibility in the Duty of Care’, towards our daughter’s Safety and Wellbeing had allowed Olivia’s tormentors/abusers to blatantly continue their acts of violent to the point they no longer concealed their physical and psychological attacks on her!


Once the school realised that we, Olivia’s parents’ were now aware of the extent of the Bullying our daughter was subjected too the school appeared to become actively involved; the attacks on Olivia by her peers gain pace and become more severe and aggressive!


Olivia was informed by her peers the main reason she was hated was because of the colour of her skin and her sexuality (a lesbian).  Again due to the school’s miss-management in handling our daughter’s case has contributed to Olivia having lost all sense-of-worth and there are still signs of Olivia contemplating self-harm!


The above experience, coupled with our daughter having to endure police interviews, including videotaping has changed our daughter’s life in many ways; and as her parents again we strongly believe Olivia will never regain or have the same self-confidence she had prior to attending your school!  Although Olivia has now changed schools she still to date lives in fear of her peers and further repercussions of same!

Yours sincerely Olivia’s Parents


Olivia’s parents never secured an audience with the school’s Governing Body and their letter was passed to a Complaints Committee that apparently worked for and on behalf of the governing body!  This was somewhat confusing for Olivia’s parents as this committee was not listed as an avenue for parents to take in the schools complaint’s procedure! 


However, Olivia’s parents were invited to meet with the complaints committee and the following correspondence relates to the seconded letter of complaint written by Olivia's parents and subsequent meeting, which left them reeling with anger, frustration and disbelief: -


Dear Parents,


Now that we have completed our investigation into the official complaint you presented to us on the 25th March, I write to set out our findings and to tell you about the recommendations we are making to the Governing Body and to the Headteacher.


Thank you for meeting with us on the 25th March and presenting your case to us.  Although this was a traumatic experience for you we appreciate the way in which you made your representations.  The formal response to your letter of complaint is set out in the attached document but I would like to tell you less formally about the investigation, our reaction to it and the positive steps we believe the school can take to learn from this distressing experience.


Having listened to your formal presentation of the complaint, we examined all the evidence you submitted to us: your files of correspondence and the copy of Olivia’s school file you presented to us 

on the 25th March.


Subsequently we met as a Committee to review the evidence.  On another occasion we met with the Headteacher, who presented his response to the complaint and answered our questions.  That meeting was followed by a further meeting and discussions to conclude our investigation and our response.


It is crucial that any Complaint should receive a positive response from the Governing Body, the Headteacher and staff of the school.   It must be the case that a school’s duty of care to every one of its students is its highest priority and we must constantly seek to review and enhance the experience of students and their parents at the School.


It is hoped that alongside the formal policy documents a simple ‘step-by-step’ guide for pupils and parents will be produced to make the policies and the courses of action they advise more easily understood.


We are satisfied that anti-bullying training for staff has been enhanced, but we must not be complacent and we have asked for this to be monitored.  We will ask the Governing Body to consider the nomination of a ‘Link Governor’ to assist the senior staff in reviewing the policy and practise of dealing with bullying issues and to monitor such issues within the school at the highest level.


My fellow-committee members and I were saddened and perplexed to learn that Olivia’s experience of at the School was such an unhappy one.    We are sorry that you felt it necessary to move Olivia to another school, but we know that sometimes a situation reaches a point when such a move is the most positive course of action possible.


We regret Olivia’s departure from the High School, but we hope and pray that her time at her new High School will be happy and fulfilling.  It is clear that Olivia is a capable student and we wish her well!


The following is the attachement to the above letter headed: -


Formal response to the Complaint made by Olivia’s Parents to the Governing Body of The 25th March 2009


This document is a response to the letter presented to the School's Governing Body by Olivia’s Parents headed “Official Formal Complaint”.  It is to be read in conjunction with that letter. 


1 Olivia’s School records


At the time of the meeting it was found that Olivia’s file had not been requested by her new school.  Nothing had therefore been passed to her new school. The School is prepared to shred and destroy all of the notes which are not part of the official pupil file as defined by the Welsh Assembly Government.


The Committee requests that this be done along with all copies of Olivia’s file held by her parents so that a line can be drawn under these experiences and Olivia can be allowed to flourish in her new school.  


2. The manner in which the school handled the complaint 


The documentation supporting this issue was reviewed thoroughly by the Committee and cross-referenced against the relevant policies.  Clarification was sought where necessary and possible from members of staff.


It is clear that incidents were noted and action was taken by staff.  Information was shared between members of staff at different management levels (form tutor, year tutor, and achievement leader).

When examining the body of paperwork confusion can arise between ‘working documents’ and ‘formal records’. 


The method of recording incidents on paper had considerable weaknesses and the Committee was pleased to discover and note that this method is no longer used.  The new electronic method of recording is far superior and will undoubtedly remove the potential for ambiguity present in the former system. 


The Committee were not able to form a view about the verbal comments and the tone or manner in which they were made.


The Committee has found that the Police Racial Hate and Homophobic Department did investigate the incidents but did not take any further action.  The Equality Officer from the LEA also investigated the procedures and sanctions and he was happy with the procedures that the school have in place.


3. The Anti-Bullying Policy


During the period under investigation, the school was in transition between two systems of recording pupil information.  When the new electronic system became fully active, the Anti-Bullying Policy was reviewed and substantially revised; since the investigation has been dealing with events which happened before the new policy was adopted then the criteria for the Committee’s judgement is the ‘old’ policy document.


The policy document is readily available and there is no explanation for a delay in finding the document and passing it to parents.  The Committee has instructed the Headteacher to review the school’s Anti-Bullying Policy again to make further improvements.  It is the Committee’s recommendation that alongside the formal policy documents a simple ‘step-by-step’ guide for pupils and parents be produced to make the policies and the courses of action they advise more easily understood.


There is evidence that staff were aware of the appropriate colour-coded forms used under the old system of recording.


On investigation the Committee found an explanation for the apparent Lack of communication from school to home about incidents involving Olivia.  It appears that in some of these cases the initial information about an incident came from home to school. (Not the case)  


On returning home from school, Olivia would reveal the details of an incident to her mother, who would then inform the school about an incident.  This led to the school deeming it unnecessary to write to the parents about an incident they had learned about from the parents themselves. (This is to justify the school etc. not informing the parents of the extreme bullying of Olivia the school. etc. were aware of for almost two years prior to the parents finding out)!!!!!


There is evidence of support offered to Olivia by members of staff. The form tutor concerned is an experienced Head of Department and other members of the Pastoral Support team were involved including the Head of Year, and Learning Support Assistants. The support of the Local Education Authority was secured. Sixth-form mentoring had been set-up but not begun by the time Olivia left the School.


4       The School Complaints procedure


The formal language of the Complaints Policy clearly hindered the procedure of dealing with this complaint and led to the apparent delay in the matter being referred to the Governing Body’s Complaints’ Committee.


When the formal complaint was received the Committee dealt with the matter within the prescribed time frame. The Committee has instructed the Headteacher to review the school’s Complaints Policy.


It is the Committee’s recommendation that alongside the formal policy documents a simple ‘step-by step’ guide for pupils and parents be produced to make the policies and the courses of action they advise more easily understood.


5.         Olivia’s experiences in the School


The Committee is saddened and very sorry that Olivia parents/family experience of the School has been so negative.


On a positive note we have found that there is no evidence of academic underperformance in Olivia’s record and during her time at the school she reached her predicted grades in all subjects.


Although the catalogue of incidents as presented in the parents’ complaint is highly regrettable we believe it is not typical of the experience of a student at the School.


In conclusion we find that the weight of evidence is such that the school cannot be said to have failed in its duty of care towards Olivia.  The response to each individual incident was in line with school policy and the full range of sanctions used by the school in dealing with the perpetrators of bullying was used in each case.


We have found that the School is constantly making improvements in the way it supports victims of bullying.  Sadly many of these strategies were either in their infancy or in the planning stages during Olivia’s time at the school others have begun since Olivia left the school.


The Learning Mentor offers considerable individually-tailored support, a ‘thumbs-up club’ and self-esteem group are run by the School Chaplain and members of the Religious Education department; restorative justice and mediation programmes are in place and staffs has training in one-to-one support.  The strategies recommended by a local anti-bullying agency and local Government are in place.


The Committee unanimously agreed 'not to uphold the formal official complaint'.


Yours sincerely

 Complaints Committee on behalf of the Governors


School’s Shortcomings

  • If the Headteacher was as ignorant as he professed to be of such a protracted persecution of one of his pupils, there is a serious lack of communication within the school which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency!     
  • It is surprising that the Headteacher insisted it would be a breach of confidentiality to discuss another pupil and yet confidential documents relating to other pupils suddenly arrived on Olivia’s parents’ doormat!
  • Anti-Bullying Policies have been mandatory for all schools since 1999 yet this school’s defense in failing to protect Olivia was that it was in its planning and infancy stages!

 Board of Governors Actions


  • It appears that the School Governors did everything they could to obstruct Olivia’s parents’ attempts to notify them of their daughter’s bullying.  How can they justify not passing the letter of complaint to the relevant party?
  • As the ‘Complaints Committee’ consisted of three members of the Board of Governors this serves to underline their policy of non co-operation

Duty of Care


  • There seems to be quite an inconsistency in their rules and regulations. Every teacher who noticed Olivia’s abuse whether or not this was recorded in writing failed in their duty of care when they did follow through and did nothing to ensure Olivia’s safety and general wellbeing!
  • Similarly, when teachers neglected to act upon reports of bullying notified by other pupils or by Olivia herself, they were negligent in their duty of care
  • One is led to wonder if the school actually had an anti-bullying policy at this time
  • Does this explain why the school failed to inform Olivia’s parents of her bullying although they were aware of it many months before her parents
  • Regardless of anything else, it is alarmingly obvious that the school in loco parentis had failed appallingly in its duty of care to the extent that one its pupils was placed in such a vulnerable position that her life was at risk

It is disappointing that Olivia’s parents have yet to receive: -


  • an acknowledgement of the bullying of their daughter
  • an apology for the way their daughter’s plight was handled
  • an apology for the way their complaints was handled


It is apparent that this particular school values its reputation more highly than its pupils’ safety!



Rhys’s situation in school wasn’t that much different from Olivia’s, but Rhys became so terrified of his persecutors that they convinced him if he told anyone of his plight he would never see his mother or family again! Therefore he continued to suffer in silence.


Rhys is the youngest of four siblings and has been brought up in a lone parent household. Rhys’ mother has worked ever since she left school and has continued to provide for her family in spite of a degenerative condition that has left her with acute restricting physical disabilities.


Rhys was born a healthy child but within a few months of starting High School, he started to suffer from recurring headaches, sore throats and tummy upsets, coupled with serious bouts of vomiting. An additional problem for the family was Rhys’ ear-piercing screams that would wake the entire household on a nightly basis.


Despite many visits to the doctor’s surgery, Rhys’ GP could not find anything physically wrong with him.  The GP did enquire if there was anything troubling the boy that could be contributing to his ill-health, but Rhys always replied “No”.


Due to Rhys’ ongoing health problems he missed a lot of schooling and it was not long before a letter arrived from the school regarding his poor attendance. The letter also carried the threat that if Rhys’ attendance did not improve, his mother could go to prison!


Never having received such an alarming letter before, Rhys’ mother panicked! She telephoned the school immediately and spoke to Rhys’ Head of Year. She explained why Rhys was missing so much schooling and that Rhys was still having health problems. But the Head of Year was remarkably unsympathetic.


After receiving the letter from the school and the unproductive conversation with Rhys’ Head of Year, his mother had a lengthy discussion with him explaining the importance of his school attendance and the consequences for them both if it did not improve.


But his attendance did not improve because he was still having the same health problems, rarely attending school for a full week. I must mention that I do know Rhys and his family very well and during an unrelated conversation with Rhys’ mother, I gathered how concerned she was about his health and the ongoing sickness and nightmares.


I arranged to visit Rhys and his mother at their home and after spending a few hours with Rhys and his family I could see there was a problem. I suggested his mother should keep a daily journal of his behaviour and mood. Approximately ten weeks later I received this diary.


I found the entries interesting; Sunday evenings through to Friday afternoons Rhys suffered with chronic headaches, vomiting, tummy aches, sore throats, nightmares and Rhys was often tearful and snappy towards his siblings, but Saturday’s entries were indicative of a great improvement in his general health and demeanour.


I noticed there were no entries for weeks seven and eight, but nine and ten were again clearly showing that Rhys’ ailments were still a factor of his life.   When I asked Rhys’s mother why there were no entries for these missing two weeks, she told me for those two weeks he had been his old self, happy, full of life and looking forward to getting up each day with no signs of sickness, headaches or anything else.


So what was so different about these two weeks that resulted in Rhys’ health and general wellbeing improving so dramatically? Only one factor emerged - it was half term.


It is not mine, and it is certainly not CURB’s place to speculate, but even though I did not voice my thoughts, I had a strong feeling that Rhys’ dilemma was linked with the school.


However, with Rhys’ continual denial that there was anything wrong in school, coupled with the lack of any documentation to clarify either way, it certainly wouldn’t have been a sensible move for me to plant the seed of my suspicion in his mother’s mind.


Therefore, I suggested to her that it may be appropriate for Rhys’ school to be made aware of his situation. I also suggested that a letter would be far more productive than a telephone conversation, but it would be in their best interest to continue with the daily journal!


It wasn’t long before a second letter arrived from the school stating that even though there had been some improvement in Rhys’ attendance, there were still concerns about the amount of schooling Rhys was missing.


Rhys’ mother admitted she had not written to the school but it was clear from the tone of the correspondence, a meeting at the school was very much needed.


Normally, neither CURB nor I would undertake the following action, but because of my association with the family and because Rhys’ mother felt intimated by the school and its staff, I arranged a meeting with the Head of Year, Rhys and one of Rhys’ older cousins.


During the meeting I explained Rhys’ health problems had been well documented by the family doctor and even though he could not find anything physically wrong, we were all of the opinion that there were underlying issues. (I had not mentioned at this meeting about his mother’s daily journal).


The Head of Year asked if he could address Rhys directly, which was fine as both Rhys’ cousin and I were present. The Head of Year asked Rhys numerous questions and I immediately picked up that Rhys’ answered each question with the same sentence “When I was in Primary School…”.


When Rhys’ was asked about his friends in High School, his reply was “They are not like my friends in Primary School”. It did not matter what question was asked or how the question was put to Rhys, he would always have “in Primary School” in his answer. If nothing else came out of this meeting it was clear Rhys had not settled into High School.


It was suggested that it may be appropriate for a school mentor/buddy to be introduced to Rhys so he could speak in confidence of any problems he was experiencing.  During our walk home I could see Rhys was more at ease than he had been on the way to the meeting. I asked him how he felt about the meeting and how it went.  He said it was okay, but he felt much safer going to school because I was there. I asked him if he would have felt safe if I wasn’t. He replied “No”.


I then asked him why he wouldn’t have felt safe.  This was when Rhys dropped the bombshell - because they would have hurt him again!  When I asked who would hurt him, Rhys started to reel off numerous names from his peer group.   He also related incidents that had occurred at their hands:

  • His Lunches being spat in
  • His School lunches taken, thrown on the floor and stamped on
  • His shins were constantly kicked so badly while sitting at his desk during lessons, that the bruising formed into lumps
  • He was stabbed with pens, pencils, maths compasses - anything sharp that could penetrate skin
  • He was punched on the body and face while walking along the corridor and in other areassuch as school toilets, playgrounds etc.
  • He was tripped up causing him to fall heavily on the ground
  • He was even pushed down stone/concrete steps causing painful injuries
  • Uninterrupted threats of further physical violence/beatings 

He also told me how he almost wet himself on more than one occasion because he was fearful of using the school toilet in case they got him in there again. I asked if he had told a teacher or member of staff. Rhys’ reply was, there was no point - they already knew!   Several of the teaching staff was aware of what was happening to Rhys but did nothing.


Members of the school staff were aware of not just an occasional incident but every assault, every ounce of humiliation Rhys suffered and they did nothing. And by their inaction, they supported his tormentors in their unremitting abuse. I asked Rhys one final question - why had he not told his mother and/or his doctor of his plight?


He replied it was because that they would have hurt his mother and then she would be taken away from him and he would never see her again! It seems the teachers were also aware of this threat and did nothing to reassure Rhys this would not happen!


Within an hour of Rhys opening up and telling of his dilemma, the school were notified and denied they were aware of the situation, but would investigate the ‘alleged bullying’.


There followed many a twist and turn during the next month that even I struggled to keep up, but one issue causing me grave concern was that Rhys was still attending school. However, there was one safeguard - Rhys’ older brother and sister who also attended the same school were now aware of their brother’s plight and checked him after every lesson spending break and lunch time with him and walking him to and from school.


The school staff argued Rhys’ siblings could have done this a lot sooner and maybe Rhys would not have had to lose so much schooling.   But Headteachers and others responsible for running schools have a duty of care to ensure the protection of every pupil in their charge, especially from intimidation, assault or harassment. It is not the responsibility of pupils to protect each other!


Unfortunately, Rhys’ two minders were off school on the same day, both with appointments and this presented Rhys’ aggressors with the ideal opportunity to attack him once more. This time they excelled themselves and pushed him down a flight of concrete stairs that resulted in a trip to the Accident & Emergency Unit!    The school staff could take no action because Rhys could not identify which child had pushed him down the stairs as they had all been standing behind him. However, he could name who was there!


In Rhys’ case the only documentation was in the form of the many entries made in his medical records but no formal complaint had been made in writing to the school.   It is not certain that even had there been an official formal complaint it would have made any difference to Rhys’ situation.


Olivia’s parents and numerous others parents throughout Wales are proof of this and the same number of families are three years into following their school’s guidelines, policies and complaints procedures to the letter but have yet to see light at the end of the tunnel!   Rhys was now officially off school due to his injuries so he was able to relax for the time being.


Rhys recovered physically from his injuries, but not psychologically. The thought of having to return to school, plus the knowledge that if he didn’t, his mother could go to prison was too much for Rhys to bear.


After finding his mother’s prescribed medication that is based on high levels of morphine, Rhys decided to end his life by taking her tablets. Had his sister not walked in at that moment no one can say for certain that he would have not gone through with it.   However, whichever way you look at it, it was most certainly a cry for help!


Rhys was supported by his family doctor and has remained off school for almost a year.  After a few months of remaining at home, his mother and I managed via the school to secure one day outside the school curriculum for him, which meant he could attend a course for Media and Filming, which he enjoyed.


However, it did mean he and the other pupils on this scheme would have to assemble in the school’s main foyer to await the school bus that would take them to the training unit.    As Rhys did not have to be there until 9.15am it meant his abusers would be settled in their lessons and would leave him alone.


Rhys made several new friends - one newfound friend who was a year older than Rhys, actually attended the same school and this helped the process of getting Rhys through the school gate.


Once Rhys was settled on this course, further meetings were arranged between Rhys, his mother and the school staff with a view to introducing him back into school life. Sadly, both Rhys and his mother always left these meetings feeling overwhelmed and out of their depth.



The school’s official opinion of Rhys’ predicament was: -

  • It was of his own and his family’s making
  • His mother and family mollycoddled and indulged him too much
  • They should consider more on toughing him up so he could learn to stand up for himself with his high-spirited peer group, rather than blaming others for his weakness


His mother was also told she had to remember the bigger picture, that Rhys was a victim and always would be because of his mother’s health problems and the fact she is a single parent.  As a result of this judgement, it was agreed I should attend the next meeting at the school with mum minus Rhys!


Rhys’ mother and I arrived at 10 50am - 10 minutes earlier for a prearranged meeting with a senior staff member.   At this jointure, my attendance had not been mentioned.  It was approximately 11.35am before Miss Senior put in an appearance and arrived in the main reception area of the school with little explanation or apology for her lateness.



This is not an unusual tactic used by teaching staff; they think it gives them the upper hand/control.   It usually has the desired effect of making the parents feel uncomfortable and at a disadvantage.  The same approach was often used with Olivia’s parents.


When we finally arrived at the room where the meeting was to take place, I noticed five seats had been provided. I asked if others were joining us.    The reply was yes, but no indication as to who this could be.    I said no more; their tactic wasn’t intimating me.


No one from the school informed Rhys’ mother that there would be others joining the meeting or who they were.    This is another strategy to unnerved parents.


Had I not been there I know this would have intimidated Rhys’ mother. One method used to put parents at a disadvantage is for one staff member to ask a question and fire a second one before the parent has time to answer the first.    This continues until the parents are totally confused.


Miss Senior expressed her disappointment that Rhys was not present. I explained this was because he found it difficult to cope with being accused of being responsible for the long term abuse he had been subjected to while in the care of the school staff!


Miss Senior made no comment nor did she look at me but instead focused on Rhys’ mother, asking her if she had managed to discuss with Rhys the verbal threat he had allegedly made towards a member of staff a few days earlier.


Mum confirmed that she had and explained that one of Rhys’ friends was having a joke with the school welfare officer.   Rhys had joined in and said, ‘You’re on my hit list as well sir’. The welfare officer had turned to Rhys and told him, ‘You’re not in school enough for me to be on your hit list!’ and walked off.   This was nothing more than a shared joke with the welfare officer.


Miss Senior was adamant the welfare officer did not find it funny and was in fact quite concerned and upset by it.   But she said she wanted to leave it there.   This abrupt closure and swift change of conversation coincided with the entry of two more staff members.   I already knew the identity of the female member of staff, but not the male and he was introduced to me by name not position. But Rhys’ mother soon let me know that he was the school welfare officer.


Miss Senior began the meeting with how we were going to move forward in getting Rhys back into full time school as the situation as it stood was unacceptable.    I told her this was not going to be an easy task, especially with the recent accusation of Rhys using threatening behaviour towards her colleague.


This took Miss Senior by surprise and she went straight on the defensive, stating they had already spoken to Rhys’ mother of the alleged bullying at an earlier meeting.    She reminded everyone of the bigger picture, of the problems at home and that neither Rhys nor his family could continue to blame Rhys’ high spirited peer group, when at the root of the problem was Rhys’ immaturity due to his family’s constant mollycoddling.    She reiterated that the boy needed to toughen up or otherwise he would always be a victim!


As the room went quiet I informed Miss Senior we would discuss each issue she had just raised after we addressed the concern of how the welfare officer had taken offence and had been intimidated by Rhys’ harmless joke when Rhys was only trying to join in with the banter that was going on between the officer and his newfound friend.


Before I had chance to finish my sentence, the welfare office bellowed loudly making everyone in the room jump!   He told the room he had not taken offence or was in anyway intimidated by Rhys’ remark if anything it was the other way around!


I made my apologies to him and told him prior to his arrival, Miss Senior had made it very clear that Rhys had indeed caused him a great deal of distress, so much so she had to telephone Rhys’ mother to tell her how distraught he was. I turned to Miss Senior asking her to confirm this.


She insisted that she never made such a telephone call, that she had no idea what I was talking about.   At this point Rhys’ mother came into her own.   She was calm, skilful and professional in the way she handled Miss Senior and when she finished everyone in the room knew Miss Senior had lied.


What also became apparent was the attitude of the welfare officer towards Rhys, specifically during the banter episode. He humiliated Rhys in front of his friend.   It seems this is what teachers are doing - educating children how to be bullies.   If teachers dislike a pupil and the law now states they cannot physically touch the children, they educate the child to do if for them!


With regard to Rhys toughening up, the question must be asked - in what way - to become as spiteful and as vicious as his peers, inflicting physical and psychological pain on his fellow students?      Would the welfare officers and the Miss Seniors of the world respect Rhys more if he became a bully? One thing for certain, neither his mother nor his family would tolerate it!  


The bigger picture referring to Rhys’ mother being a lone parent is clear discrimination.   Because Rhys comes from a lone parent family does not give the school staff or Rhys’ peers’ the right to abuse him.


I repeated ‘alleged bullying’ to Miss Senior and she smiled and confirmed ‘alleged bullying’ and asked "hadn’t Rhys’ mother or myself noticed that Rhys could never identify any one individual who had ‘allegedly’ attacked him?    This was a very good point.


Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought Rhys’ file with me for which I apologised, but it did not prevent me from presenting details contained in CURB’s file on Rhys:

  • The daily journal that had been kept since I became involved approximately three years earlier
  • Notes of injuries inflicted by Rhys’ Peers
  • Hospital/GP records of recorded injuries inflicted by his peers(the bullies)
  • Entries on how the school staff have handled Rhys and his mother’s complaint of bullying and abuse - official or otherwise
  • Emails sent to Rhys by his tormentors clearly illustrating who did what.   It was in the bullies haste to blame each other that they succeeded in incriminating themselves!

The evidence of Rhys's plight was now available to the school, however the school delcined any copies and/or the original transcripts.


On this note, the scales were tipped temporarily in Rhys’ favour!   But no one, certainly not Rhys, his family or I will become complacent with this small victory as Rhys is still registered as a pupil at the school.


Even though schools are closed for the summer holidays, Rhys is still unsettled as to what is to come next.  He spoke to me only a few days ago worrying about what the school staff has planned for his new term in September.


However, it was agreed that Rhys will return to school two mornings a week between 9.30am and 11.30am, so he can avoid his peers and hopefully catch up with Maths and English with the view to obtaining his GCSEs.


Three days a week; Rhys will attend an alternative establishment.  There will be no transport provided for his journey to and from this placement; he will have to find his way there himself although the school has offered to pay for the bus ticket.


In most cases this would normally be fine, but since the brutal attacks in school, Rhys no longer has the self-confidence to stand on his own doorstep without someone being with him, let alone catch at least two buses to the school’s chosen placement.


As for Rhys his last school report it contained some interesting and varying comments.  One of the more favourable reads: -

  • Even though Rhys has missed several lessons and his attendance needs to improve, he is a pleasant pupil who works well
  • In spite of his poor attendance he did work hard and achieved A, B, & C marks from his teachers
  • Rhys’s has only attended a few lessons, but he produces     satisfactory work
  • Works well and with great interest, and is always cooperative

Some teacher’s have stated they at: -

  • Could not comment on Rhys’s progress as he has not attended lessons this year


One contradictory statement came from the drama teacher who always poked fun at Rhys’ because he was overweight wrote: -

  • Rhys has made little or no contribution
  • He is uncooperative and difficult
  • Rhys has not attended any lessons this year

How can Rhys make little or no contribution or be uncooperative and difficult if he hasn’t attended any drama lessons for a year?


Miss Senior’s comments were not unexpected: -

  • Rhys has found it difficult to integrate into full full-time education. Hopefully he will benefit from being placed on the alternative curriculum next year

Rhys has already benefited from the alternative curriculum and has OCN awards to prove his outstanding work, contribution and cooperation.


It was at this point; Rhys’s mother was in a very strong position to make an official formal complaint against the school.


However, both Rhys and his mother have decided they could not take the pressure of the school’s further scheming and deceitfulness and his mother feels making an official formal complaint could place Rhys at further risk and neither she nor Rhys could cope with it.


They both just want to get through Rhys’s final year at school and look towards a sixteen plus education placement.


When CURB receives a request from parents or referrals from other agencies, parents are immediately made aware that CURB is not here to take over their situation, but to support and offer assistance when needed.


However, regardless of what avenue the parent/family take, CURB will continue to support them, spelling out their choices until they feel the can either cope alone or matters come to a conclusion.


An Anti-Bullying Policy would seem to be the obvious first step towards addressing incidents of bullying and to eventually eradicating it altogether, but I have yet to find a case where it actually works!


Over the last eighteen years, CURB has collated data that highlights areas of concern.  The two most worrying being that the combined physical and psychological attacks on children by children during school hours have: -

  • Risen significantly over the last ten years (September 1999/2009)
  • A substantial increase of parents making complaints, not just against the child bully, but the Schools, Governing Bodies, LEA’s etc. due to their lack of response to handling and adressing bullying 

These increases appear to coincide with Anti-Bullying Policies becoming mandatory in England and Wales September 1999.


CURB’s records clearly indicate that even though there are official guidelines from main and local governments with regard to Anti-Bullying Policies, schools can modify their own policies to suit their school’s needs, which is fine to a point.


However, what has become apparent to CURB is that Anti-Bullying Policies are not being used to protect the child from bullying/abuse the policies are being used to protect the School Staff, Governors and Local Education Authorities (LEA). One only has to look again at the two cases highlighted in this report to understand why!


The number of families throughout Wales who are successful in their uphill struggle to get schools to accept their child is being bullied is at an all time low. Therefore, the likelihood of the school actually doing anything to stop the violent and brutal attacks on a child by their peers is zero!


Bearing in mind, the child’s torment will have been ongoing for a considerable time before their parents are alerted to the situation.  


Once the parents realise the full extent and seriousness of their child’s situation they have to follow the schools guidelines of reporting bullying, then adhere to the policies, complaint procedures; taking approximately three to four years just to reach the schools governing body


During this time the child will continue to be beaten, tortured and hounded by their peers because the school is using all its resources to browbeat the parents into believing the school does not have a bullying problem!


Even though the parents have followed the school’s Anti-Bullying Policy to the letter, the process of persuading the school they do have a problem is painfully slow.   It can get to a point when the frustrated parent, dissatisfied with the schools or Headteacher’s handling of their concern, resorts to making an official complaint.  To do this they must follow the school’s complaints procedures.


But amazingly, making an Official Formal Complaint against schools/Headteachers, governors and/or LEA, for their appalling failure in their duty of care to an already vulnerable child is unlikely to make a difference!


Because those that stand accused are the investigators of the complaint against them!    They are the Judge at their own Trial; they are the Jury who decide the Verdict so they will always rule to “unanimously agree not to uphold any official formal complaint”!


Other local authority departments have not been allowed to police themselves for many years.  Police, health authorities etc. have Independent Complaints Councils.    But it appears the education sector has not been brought into line with the other departments so parents are unable to obtain a fair and impartial hearing without the fear of schools/Headteachers, Governing Bodies etc. closing ranks!


There should be an independent council that can act on behalf of a child and the family that has the status and power to question and interview all school staff governors etc., because from mine and CURB’s understanding, the LEA don't have any real powers within schools, school governors!


An independent education council should house: 

  • A specialised unit that has individually trained officials to interview child victims of bullying and abuse.
  • Appropriate Child Counsellors independent of the counselling service that is being introduced into schools. Most parents would be suspicious of their child being seen by a school counsellor, especially when the staff governors etc. are denying their school has bullying issues! 
  • Free specialised legal team who can advise parents/children on other matters affecting the child’s welfare in addition to bullying 
  • An Independent Council for Education could in fact assist schools. Taking complaints away from the school and allowing others to deal with issues raised by parents such as bullying etc., this opportunity could free up school staff to do what they were trained to do - 'teach our children'!

Having an anti-bullying organisation on the corner of every street in every area of the UK won’t make any difference to resolving the issues of bullying because all anti-bullying organisations can offer is to assist parents to follow their school’s guidelines, policies and complaints procedures and that will rarely have a favourable outcome for child or parent.


However, CURB will continue to support and assist parents of children who are victims of bullying/abuse as we have for the last eighteen years!


CURB will also continue to highlight the long-term damage and devastation bullying has on a child and their family.


Equally important due to CURB’s findings from its’ Annual Statistics from reported cases collated over the twelve month period from May 2008 to May 2009 have found an alarming three percent (3%) of children aged between eleven and eighteen year olds in schools in Cardiff alone have contemplated taking their own life!


However, as these are only CURB’s figures I suspect that the number is far greater!


Therefore, due to these disturbing findings CURB as an organisation has pledged to continue to strive forward with their campaign for an Independent Community Council, to deal with issues surrounding and directly involving education, especially bullying with the view of preventing a possible three percent (3%) successful child suicide rate!


On this note, I would like to take the opportunity to thank CURB's President and Patrons for their continuous support, CURB’s Sponsors/Supporters, Legal Teams and Volunteers’, especially Jeanette Ross and Ann Ward who without their combined efforts, support and painstaking attention to detail this report would certainly not have been possible!


Finally, I would like to say a special Thank You to Olivia, Rhys and their families for allowing CURB to highlight their plight, even though their impasse is far from being resolved and the trauma that they and their families are still enduring they still wanted to help others in similar circumstances!