WHILE most youngsters relish the excitement of starting a new school term, it can also be a time of trepidation, particularly for those who are starting school for the first time, or joining a new school.
Bullying is one of the issues for concern raised by 19 per cent of parents in a recent survey commissioned by PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years). Other worries included getting settled in and into a routine, making friends and eating a proper lunch.
Alina Khan, school adviser diversity and cohesion, who works in schools in Bradford and district helping to tackle issues including bullying, says: “We know it (bullying) is an issue because it is a universal issue.”
‘Stand Up, Speak Out and Make a Difference’ is a peer education project run within the city’s schools to help raise the profile of bullying and to empower pupils to do something about it.
“It is empowering young people to have an understanding, to stand up and say they are not happy with something as it happens,” says Alina.
She says cyber bullying has become a particular problem over the past few years prompting safeguarding work to educate young people how to use the internet safely and responsibly.
Someone who has successfully beaten the bullies is Bradford’s own celebrity magician, Dynamo. The 31-year-old recently spoke about how he got his revenge on school bullies with his huge success.
Dynamo, whose real name is Steven Frayne, grew up on a tough housing estate within the city and as a thin, sickly child, was targeted by bullies.
He recently told Radio Times magazine that his gruelling school experience made him who he is today.
The illusionist, who is said to count David Beckham, Will Smith, Jay Z and Paul McCartney as fans, came to magic when his great-grandfather taught him tricks he had picked up in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
He said: “Without it (bullying), I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“If I hadn’t been stuck in wheelie bins and shoved down hills, I would never have got into magic.
“I would never have asked my grandpa for help and he would never have shown me what he did.”
He said of his great-grandfather: “He used to perform stuff for me but he’d never tell me how he did it...It took a long time to get it out of him. And at the time they were just things to scare bullies off.
“So, I’m kind of thanking the bullies in a way. The best form of revenge is success, isn’t it? Sometimes I get tweets off people who claim to have been my friends at school.
“But they weren’t – they were the ones pushing me down the steps and doing stupid stuff to me.
“But it’s gonna happen, innit? With success, it’s not you that’s changed, it’s people around you that have changed.”
Bending back his finger in a seemingly impossible way, he added: “If the kids threatened to break my bones I’d say, ‘You can’t break my bones, I’m invincible,’ then do that. So, that’d scare them and freak ‘em out a little bit.”
Alina says celebrities, such as Dynamo, who speak out about their own experiences are helping to raise the profile about bullying.
“So much is being done and what we have found is when we started doing the work in schools the number of reported incidents had gone up and that wasn’t because more bullying was taking place but more people were feeling more confident to report it because schools are dealing with it effectively. There is a lot of really good stuff going on out there,” says Alina.
Siobhan Freegard, founder of the parenting website, Netmums, says: “We know from a recent survey on Netmums that bullying tops the list of the things parents worry about the most. Bullying can make a child’s life a misery and many suffer in silence, afraid to speak up and get help they so desperately need to stop the bullying. It is great that Dynamo has spoken out about his own experiences of being bullied. He is a super role model for children and teenagers and by talking about bullying he might inspire children to tell a parent or trusted adult if they themselves are being bullied and get the help they need. It also sends home a crucial message that people who are bullied are not ‘useless’ or ‘hopeless’. They, like Dynamo, can beat the bullying, rebuild their confidence and learn to stand strong and believe in themselves.”
Parents who are worried their child is being bullied and would like further information and support can visit netmums.com/education/bullying/how-to-help-your-child-if-they-are-being-bullied.