Bullying ‘epidemic’: parents call for action

Bullying is a problem in the borough, say parents following our investigation
Bullying is a problem in the borough, say parents following our investigation

A Scarborough News investigation has revealed fewer pupils are being kicked out of class, amid claims not enough is being done to tackle the borough’s bullying “epidemic”.

Not one secondary school student has been expelled, nor has any primary pupil been suspended, for bullying in the last four years.

Across the borough, over 1,424 secondary school pupils have been suspended from class for offences ranging from assaulting staff and pupils to sexual misconduct.

The figures mean that on average, at least one pupil is suspended for every day of term-time in Scarborough.

But only a fraction of those offences have been deemed serious enough by schools to warrant expelling the pupil.

And with bullying not one of them, parents have called for the schools to “stop turning a blind eye” to bullying.

“It seems that bullies’ rights are more important than their victims’,” said the father of one girl who he claims was on the receiving end of a beating from two known bullies.

His daughter was also suspended for two days for throwing punches during the fracas, but he, and other parents, claims bullies are allowed to return to school while their “victims” feel like they have to move.

“Children obviously move under their own accord, but they are being forced into that situation as nothing is being done to tackle the bullying epidemic.”

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that since 2011, temporary suspensions have fallen by over 26 per cent in the borough’s secondary schools, with a year-on-year decline.

In the 2011/2012 term, 417 pupils were suspended across the borough. Last year, that figure was down to 308.

Across the four-year period of our figures, the borough’s biggest school Graham has regularly topped the suspensions table, and has bucked the local trend with suspensions actually increasing – with Ofsted positively highlighting this in a recent report.

But according to our figures, Graham School is one of three secondaries in the borough – along with the smaller Eskdale and the Scarborough Pupil Referral Service – that hasn’t suspended anybody directly for bullying since at least 2011.

The Scarborough News contacted the school’s headteacher Helen McEvoy but she was unavailable.

But our figures show while the rest of the other schools have issued at least one suspension in recent years for bullying, nobody has ever been directly expelled for it.

One mother claims she pulled her daughter from a large Scarborough secondary following a bullying campaign.

“They made her life hell, but they were allowed to come back – how is that right?” she said.

“To me it just seems easier to let the victims find a new school, rather than for someone to take a stand to try and tackle bullying.”

In the wake of our investigation, North Yorkshire County Council admits “more should be done” to combat bullying in its schools.

It follows a survey by the authority which found that just over half of the region’s secondary pupils think their school takes bullying seriously.

In a statement, the authority claims it takes “bullying extremely seriously” adding that it works with all schools to tackle the problem and raise awareness among staff and students.

The survey, called ‘Growing up in North Yorkshire’ revealed that just 51 per cent of older pupils thought their schools were trying to tackle the issue.

The majority of primary pupils thought their schools took bullying seriously.

Admitting more should be done, a council spokesperson said the authority has established a number of initiatives in Scarborough, including anti-cyber bullying guidance.

They added: “Bullying seriously undermines individual self confidence and self worth and as a result is an important priority for all schools.

“We have seen a reduction in the use of fixed term exclusions at secondary level in Scarborough by about 25 per cent over the course of the last four years (417 down to 308) and whilst the numbers of permanent exclusions have increased from eight to 16 they are still unusual and schools’ individual figures are consistently under five.

“The picture at primary level sees in our view no significant increase in use of fixed term exclusions.

“Behind the data, none of the primary fixed term exclusions relate to bullying as the main reason and at secondary it features in some schools but not all.

“However, this data does not mean that bullying is not managed or taken seriously.”