May 1st 2012 CURB (Children under Risk from Bullying) celebrated its Twenty First Anniversary.


Due to the continued interest in Olivia and Rhys who were featured in my Annual Report 2009, we decided that we would give a brief recap and update on their lives.


Additionally, CURB has approached two hundred parents, whose involvement with CURB dates back eighteen years, asking their views on the government backed Anti-Bullying Policies, procedures and guidelines designed for schools.


N.B.  Both Olivia’s and Rhys’ full stories can be found on CURB’s website. 


From the time Olivia transferred to her secondary school at the age of eleven, she was subjected to the most horrific physical bullying ranging from being stabbed to being beaten plus regular mental abuse culminating in her writing a suicide note.  This was discovered by her mother who immediately sought help in putting an end to her daughter’s persecution.


The Headteacher, the chair of the school’s governing body and complaints committee, its director, also the Director of Education and external agencies for children’s welfare were all approached and involved in addressing Olivia’s abuse. Astonishingly, this did not bring about an immediate end to her suffering, instead, her parents were to undergo several years of bureaucracy and protracted investigation while Olivia’s relentless torment continued!

For the remainder of Olivia’s time at the school her parents fought a losing battle against the authorities, the people who should be giving them support, help and advice.  There was counter-accusation and endless prevarication and instead of feeling Olivia to be the victim in all this, she was even portrayed as a perpetrator!  Both Olivia and her parents were failed miserably by those from whom they should be able to expect kindness and understanding.

Note: Certain details have come to light since our investigation and the subsequent report but none show any of these authorities in any better light.

Following the 2009 report, the director of Olivia’s school decided that an independent investigator should be brought in to review all the documentation relating to the ‘alleged bullying’ (director’s terminology) Olivia was claiming she had been subjected to and her parents’ subsequent complaints!

Her parents expressed their deep concern that the director of the school should be allowed to choose the independent reviewer without their having any say in the matter.  They were told if they did not agree to the chosen reviewer, the evaluation would not go ahead and this would conclude the matter of their daughter’s alleged bullying!

Olivia’s parents spent many hours going through the reams of correspondence they had collated over a three year period, coupled with a significant amount of documentation forwarded to them from the director’s chosen reviewer.

When the review had been concluded and too late to take any action, they discovered the reviewer and the director of the school both worked for the same organisation.  Had they known this at the outset of the review they would have objected strongly to the director’s choice and insisted another was chosen.


It therefore came as no surprise when the independent reviewer’s findings exonerated the school and its governors of any shortcomings, the blame for Olivia’s situation being laid solely and firmly at the door of Olivia and her parents!


The school implied that Olivia was an “extremely delicate and susceptible child and it was highly likely she confused teasing and playful mockery with bullying!  This coupled with her parents’ lack of perception of what bullying actually is was highly likely to exacerbate a situation that didn’t really exist”!


Daily journals that have been kept since my Annual Report 2009 show Olivia still lives in fear of her peers who attacked her daily with such malice.  It is also evident from some of the entries in the journals that on two separate occasions in the last twelve months, Olivia ended up on the same public transport as two of the main aggressors from her previous school.  Olivia was left completely traumatised by these chance encounters and has still not fully recovered.  She has often asked will the fear of her tormentors ever leave her!


Because her safety and wellbeing were considered to be at risk, Olivia was forced to leave her chosen secondary school just before her final year.  This meant that when she arrived at her new high school, they were already organising their end of year seniors’ prom.  Olivia agonised over this event from the beginning.  Her parents encouraged her to go! 


Eventually, a compromise was reached; Olivia would go as long as her parents stayed in the car park of the school in case she needed to leave sooner than expected.  She stayed for approximately two hours.  Apparently she did enjoy those two hours, but suddenly she felt an overwhelming dread and had to leave. 


More notes in the journals clearly indicate Olivia is still struggling to come to terms with her traumatic experiences at her previous school and to understand why the adults there let her down so badly and why they did nothing to curb the daily abuse she endured!


However, the last straw for Olivia was how the adults from her previous school were able to secure a closed meeting, intruding upon and severing the only help and support she sought from an independent external child and young people’s agency! She questioned why this agency allowed those adults to secure a meeting without informing her.  After all, the agency was supposed to be her support network and should have been protecting her interests and be immune from any influence the adults at the school tried to exert. My report on Olivia must rest here as I have no further news to impart on what action, if any, her parents are now considering.

Rhys’ ordeal was made even harder because of threats to his family if he told anyone about his bullying.  So he kept the accounts of his abuse to himself.  As a consequence he started having nightmares and his health deteriorated which meant he lost a lot of schooling.  When his mother began to keep a journal recording his health and moods it at last became apparent that his ill health was related to his time in school.  As with Olivia, Rhys’ school authorities were approached and although the tactics were different the result was the same, little co-operation and little help or support.

After leaving school Rhys went to college but the ramifications of his bullying at his senior school have left their mark and he has days when he can’t leave his home unescorted.  And then there are some days when he is so overwhelmed by the sheer number of students around him that it triggers a panic attack! 

Rhys’ main fear is of bumping into or even seeing the perpetrators of his abuse.  Simply the thought of meeting them is enough to cause his anxiety levels to escalate.

Frequent anxiety attacks resulted in poor attendance at college and he lost his second year placement.  Notwithstanding the amount of time Rhys took off, he still managed to complete all his course work, the modules etc. and passed in all his subjects.

Once his tutors were advised of the reason behind his absences, they gave Rhys extra support which led to his attendance improving and his second year placement being reinstated!

During the last few months of his second term, Rhys not only improved his attendance but he stayed longer hours, even attending on his days off to help and support some of his peers who were struggling with their course work.  His efforts paid off because on the last week of his second term he received a special award that acclaimed and paid tribute to the compassion, help and support he freely gave to his fellow students during their difficult times!

There have been a number of new cases of bullying identified since my last report, almost identical in the way their cases have been handled.  I will not elaborate on these but suffice it to say the parents are experiencing the same frustration, disbelief and even disgust that their children’s abuse is not dealt with as a priority.  It seems that nothing has changed.

Thirteen years on since anti-bullying policies in schools were made mandatory, parents are still reporting difficulties in obtaining hard copies of the policy.  And those who are fortunate to obtain an anti-bullying policy follow it religiously to no effect whatsoever!  The authorities continue to prevaricate and the children continue to suffer.  The pantomime plays on.


Sometimes, out of pure frustration parents take matters into their own hands either: 

  • Transferring their child to a new school
  • Having their child tutored at home
  • Keeping their children home from school often because they cannot persuade them to go to a place where they most certainly will be victimised by the seasoned bullies

In the last three years, CURB have advised parents to read their local and central government websites, with a view to familiarising themselves with the guidelines and recommendations to schools on identifying and handling bullying.

CURB has also communicated with parents who contacted the organisation some eighteen years ago, to ask if they would read the government websites with the view to determining if the information now available would have helped them in anyway, also to obtain their views on the guidelines generally.

Two hundred parents responded to CURB’s request and their comments were most informative.  Their observations were varied:-  

  • Many felt they were mainly aimed at schools and education authorities, but very useful for parents to know what they could expect from them
  • A few indicated that if these circulars were around in their time they would have contacted the named person/s on the circulars to see if they could get their child's school to address their bullying problem 
  • Others felt it would be a fruitless exercise to do this that they would be instructed to follow the school's policies and procedures 
  • Most parents confirmed looking at the government website would be the last place they would look for information relating to bullying 
  • A number of parents stated the information was too overwhelming a 'read', especially for parents who had just been confronted with the knowledge their child had been a victim of unrelenting physical and emotional abuse in school for a considerable period 
  • The majority asked if teaching staff would have the time for such detailed monitoring as described in government guidelines

CURB also received the following observations from parents: 

  • Most of the guiding principles are nowhere near practical 
  • Sometimes the meaning is ambiguous or obscure 
  • It is difficult to locate relevant data  
  • Every school pen their own Anti-bullying Policy, which is possibly one of the main reasons they don't work
  • It reads like a University study guide   
  • Schools must define their "definition of bullying".  This is open to abuse
  • It is offensive especially when one reads "Some pupils/victims may be passively or submissively signally to their peers come and torture me"  
  • As long as Schools have/can produce an Anti-Bullying Policy and complaint procedures are in place, with teachers/governors often quoting government guidelines, they are officially protected 

Parents have made their feelings very clear that they are fed up with the standard response from schools when confronted by outside bodies, especially the media: -

  • “Even though ‘incidents of bullying are not typical’ we have strategies in place to tackling bullying if it occurs, which also includes offering a victim peer support, counselling, information for parents about other forms of bullying and we have staff training in matters relating to bullying”       

One very relevant question asked was do the teachers have the time for such detailed monitoring?  In the light of the considerable workload a teacher has to carry, it seems unlikely.


CURB, again with the assistance of interested parents, also surveyed approximately thirty secondary schools’ prospectuses and websites.  The main aim was to compare Anti-Bullying Policies (ABP’s).  However, out of the thirty schools only one school advertised their ABP!

In spite of gaining access to only one ABP, both CURB and parents easily accessed the schools’ strategies for: - 

  • Using Reasonable Force to Control Pupils
  • Drugs and/Weapons Guidelines
  • Child Protection Policies
  • Complaint Procedures 

These policies run parallel with each other.  That ABP’s were not readily available on schools’ websites was no surprise to anyone! 

More parents are beginning to recognise the ineffectiveness of the systems in place and the authorities’ reluctance to take any action.  They realise that it has to change.

This is why CURB is continuing to campaign for an Independent Community Education Council (ICEC); it is the only way forward.  And CURB received an unexpected but welcome surprise when the parents turned the tables on CURB and asked: -

  • Why is CURB campaigning for an Independent Community Education Council (ICEC)?


  • What difference does CURB think an ICEC would make especially in relation to bullying issues, the complaints procedure and subsequent handling of them?

CURB’s response is quite simple.  If after fighting to combat bullying for twenty-one years, we are still encountering the same problems, something must be wrong.  We are doing all we can so perhaps the problem lies elsewhere. 

Schools and education authorities have been given the guidance and power to address this appalling situation but are seemingly incapable or unwilling to do so.  In the meantime children are suffering and their parents are tied up in frustrating bureaucracy.  

Long and protracted investigations have in some cases left children and young people with long-term mental health issues sometimes the damaged being irreversible.

CURB feels that an independent body unhampered by the need to protect a school’s reputation can arrive at decisions promptly and efficiently.


Perhaps it is too much to hope for prevention, but we are hoping for the early recognition of bullying, acknowledgement and swift action. 


We expect transparency, honesty and ultimately justice!  If the schools and education authorities have not achieved it, it is about time to give someone else the chance!



God Bless

Maureen Booth-Martin Winkxx