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headteacher

Welcome to the school which has no bullies! (Really?)

Today I felt a flash of anger – as the issue of bullying came up in the news yet again. For us in the west, there’s a very sad news story about a young girl who died from hanging in Somerset.

Her parents have spoken at the inquest of bullying at school, being teased because of her weight, an eating disorder….the poor girl’s experiences now held up for public scrutiny. A terrible, terrible time for her parents. There’s that sense of needing, wanting to blame…but a verdict has yet to be reached, the inquest is still going on.

However, inquests are so important as they can throw up issues which enter the public domain for discussion and debate even if we should bear in mind the human costs involved. Bullying and its effect will surely be a theme with this story.

Today the head teacher of the school where this girl was a pupil gave evidence. I was not there at the inquest, so I’m taking information from the item I saw and heard on the local news bulletin. This head teacher apparently said that there was no bullying at school, the girls who were identified as teasing their fellow pupil about her weight, had denied it. The bulletin said it was simply a ‘clash of personalities’.

Is your child being bullied?

It’s this kind of tepid, ridiculous response which makes me seethe. It’s the kind of line I’ve heard more than once. It’s an adult casting his judgement on what a so-called ‘clash of personalities’ can do to a child. An adult has to understand that what he/she might see as ‘banter’ or ‘childish pranks’ or  ‘pettiness’ , may be having a more profound effect on the victim of it. It’s no different than the dynamics of a workplace. Sometimes friendly banter from one person may be extremely offensive to someone else. How that person feels about that ‘friendly banter’ really matters.

While I don’t wish for one moment to suggest that my experiences are on a par with this terrible tragedy – it serves to highlight a point. Over the years, I’ve been the subject of ‘friendly banter’ and it’s been fine, I give as I much as I get. But on the odd occasion that friendly banter has crossed the line of what I think is acceptable. And that’s the key  – WHAT I THINK IS ACCEPTABLE. So I have had to ensure that the person knows that a line has been crossed.

Transfer this experience to a child. To me, if a child feels bullied and gives off all the signs that they are feeling victimised – surely a head teacher cannot dismiss this as a ‘clash of personalities’ or ‘pettiness’. And claiming that there’s no bullying worries me – where’s the school which truly has no bullying? and which way does a child turn if he/she feels no one is listening and nothing is going to change. At best it’s something they’ll never forget, at worst – well…..

Another thing which bothers me is that if parents are continually fed lines like this, they interpret it as it’s their child which is the problem and will often move schools. Therefore it can be the case that it’s the victim who pays – and not the bully. I often wonder when this happens, if the bullies who got away with it have gone on in later life to display similar behaviour.

Let’s be frank about this. Schools need to get to grips with bullying and deal with it more intelligently. Don’t pretend it’s not a problem, or it’s two people clashing where one is as responsible as another. Look at each case critically and apportion blame where it lies. Children need justice too.

Road users who drive me mad!

This morning as I drove down a dual carriage way in Swindon – a cyclist, making his way out of town on the other side of the road, crossed the very wide green verge and then crossed in front of two lines of cars on my side of the road.

Luckily there were roadworks and all the cars were moving slowly so his U-turn was not that dangerous.

But it was annoying.

 

Annoying because within metres of this dual carriageway on both sides is a dedicated cycle path. There is no where on that stretch of road that could not be reached by this cycle path.

 

It was the second day in a row that I had to avoid a mad cyclist when a cycle path was a mere two seconds away.

Both of these road users were cyclists in all the gear – aero-dynamically shaped helmet, lycra body suits, lightweight shoes. Does this mean that they feel they are a cut above the cycle paths – which let’s face it are suitable for all of those on bikes?

I’m not against cyclists per se – as a family we do go out cycling but we do avoid traffic and roads as much as we can. This is easy to do in Swindon which has been designed with the cyclist and pedestrian in mind. Places are easy to get to via road, cycle and on foot.

It infuriates me when cyclists fanny about on the main roads when there’s a safer and better alternative nearby.

 

 

However there’s a breed a road-user that annoys me even more. It’s the mum (or dad) who parks as close to his/her child’s school as possible regardless of whether it’s safe or not. Often not.

 

 

This is a problem I encounter every day. I was brought up across the road from a infants school so I know about inconsiderate parking. But at my children’s school in Swindon, this lack of care has reached epic proportions. I’m not being santimonious – I drive my children to school but I always think about where I park – am I blocking someone in? Is this a safe place to park?

I’ve even had words with a resident who didn’t want me to park in her street, even though I was perfectly legal to do so and was not blocking anyone. She just didn’t want the likes of me (annoying parent dropping child at school) near her house. Well, she chose to live there, so get used to it.

However I do hate the  ‘mad mums’ syndrome. The aim is to choose the worst parking position possible and cause maximum havoc. The minimum standard is to park across a resident’s drive. The best strategy is to park on a corner of a road, blocking every other vehicle’s view or to park on the pavement next to the school and then doing a three-point turn from that position.

In spite of increasingly angry letters home from the headteacher, it’s a losing battle. In the last letter it was as close to a tantrum as you could get in a letter. I’m not surprised as children’s safety is at risk on a daily basis. Many (though not all) of these drivers are young (under 30) and often seem to think they have a right to park in the most dangerous way.

picture of a car, side view with one wheel showing

Just how much disruption can you cause when parking near a school?

So I’d welcome some creative suggestions as to how to shame these drivers into being safe – without breaking the law of course!

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