School Bullying Complaints

My son started at a small, Welsh Medium, local school with approximately 22 pupils in the Gwaun Valley (Pembrokeshire) when he was five years old. He was a happy, quiet, well-behaved, very intelligent child who loved life and learning.

He had always been very 'advanced' (possibly because we had no television) and got frustrated when he did not receive proper answers to his questions, as was written on his admittance form.

Problems started straight away at this school. For example, the teacher took weeks to give him a name sticker for his coat peg but children who started after my son got their name stickers straight away. She said she kept forgetting!

Bullying by another girl in his class started straight away as did bullying by one of the oldest boys in the school. The problems with the little girl were ignored by the teacher; these incidents included cuts to my son's neck, face and head; eventually the (brilliant) teaching assistant sorted them out because I refused to put up with it and the excuses any more. The trouble with the big boy was ignored or fobbed-off. One incident involved this big boy attacking my five-year-old in the outside toilets. We have no idea what happened as he still can't talk about it. He was terrified to use the loo; he was often sent home with severe stomach pains (because he needed a pee) and eventually stopped drinking so that he wouldn't need to use the toilet. He is still afraid to go to our own loo on his own and likes me near the door, though not inside it any more. This toilet incident was reported to the teaching assistant who confronted the bully in the class-room, in front of the kids and head-teacher. He 'blew up' and denied it; the school 'record' of the incident shows very little detail and the whole thing was brushed aside.

From that day on this big boy picked on my child at every possible opportunity. My child was coming home with up to fifty finger tip sized bruises on his body at a time; the school denied they were caused at school but he never got them in holiday periods. A consultant paediatrician said it was down to bullying. The school still denied it.

To cut a long story short, by the second year my child was at this school his personality had changed. He was often ill, his nails were bitten to infection stage and he lost interest in life and refused to go out; he couldn't sleep in his own room. I was going to change schools but was afriad the next one might be worse and the main bully had now left.

The teacher kept complaining about my child saying he was unable to focus, wasn't working and was made to sit on his own in class. She put this on his report: what she didn't put was that she was constantly telling him off, humiliating him, keeping him in most play times and often at dinner time. The new head teacher told us about this months later.

My child was afraid to tell us because he thought he would be in more trouble. He said that every time we went to see the teacher it made things much worse (which is why he stopped telling us he was being bullied). There were lots of incidents where kids kicked the football at my child, aiming for his face but wouldn't allow him to join in games and so on.

He was also being sexually harassed by the young brother of the original bully (a so-called 'friend'). This boy suddenly started dropping his trousers and wiggling his 'bits' at my son, bending over and shoving his bare bum at him and so on. I made quite strong complaints to the teacher several times over a period of two to three weeks but nothing changed. My child said the teacher told the boy to stand on the table and do it so they could all see.

My ex-husband rang the head teacher and told her to get it sorted or he would. The other boy admitted doing it, but said he had no idea it was wrong. My child (and the other boy) were interviewed by the headteacher without our being asked or informed of the outcome. According to every bit of legislation/regulation this sexual harassment should have been taken very seriously and recored in detail. It was not recorded at all; no reported bullying was recorded.

As my child is very intelligent I was worried. I had noticed he was getting letters wrong and relied on pictures when reading but the teacher dismissed these concerns saying 'this is normal'. I asked several times if he was bored because he did need stimulating work. The teacher dismissed this also but complaints continued and my child's personality changed so much I did not know him, but he refused to talk about anything. In desperation I took him to see the health visitor. We were both horrified to hear him tell her "I've got a problem - there's something wrong with me". This had come from the teacher. The health visitor assured him that the teacher may have a problem but he certainly did not. She thought he was a delightful child who was probably understimulated as he appeared to be of above average intelligence. This took her approximately five minutes to work out.

During the Summer holidays my child refused to go anywhere on his own and still rarely slept in his room. He was still too frightened to go from one room in the house to another on his own. Eventually he told me the original bully's best friend had taken over the bullying and he begged me not to send him back to this school. Amazingly enough my son still wanted to be part of a school, have friends and learn but not this school.

A new head teacher was starting and my ex-husband went to see her about the bullying and complaints by the teacher. She seemed genuine and did help to an extent but the damage was done and my child could not cope with the place any longer. He was a wreck and if bullies want to bully they will find a way.

This new head teacher also refused to investigate the previous two years' bullying because she had not been there then. What a lame excuse.

After we had been to see her with our complaints, my child's class teacher did the most spiteful, unbelievable thing you could imagine; at home time she sent my son out of school with the original bully's father. He was terrified of the teacher and terrified of this man. I was at the school, Forty yards away getting out of my car so there was NO excuse for this evil deed. Forty yards is a long way when you are seven years old and the person you are terrified of is over six feet tall and known for his horrible behaviour and mouth. Despite complaints to everyone in authority, including WAG, this teachers action was excused as 'a kindness because it was raining'. It rains a hell of a lot in Pembrokeshire and my child had never been sent out with anyone before. That was the last time I sent my son to that place.

We parents sent a written formal complaint to the school governors and the Local Education Authority. We only knew about the governors because another parent told us; I thought they were just there to look after finances which is about all the annual letter showed. I had also complained to a member of the Parent Teacher Association; the woman also ignored the complaint but agreed about the little thugs at the school. The Governors say PTA members can not do anything but this is not true; she should have at least told me of the complaints procedure.

The governors arranged a meeting eventually even though my child had left the school. Only I was invited to the meeting (mothers are easier to intimidate by gangs I suppose and easier to manipulate). I had another barny with the LEA to get my child's father included on the invitation. I had also complained to the LEA about the bullying and they were going to send someone out to see us - it took weeks and a few reminders. Anyway, the governors' meeting was a sham. They refused to answer any of our questions; said they were unaware of our complaints about bullying (the whole lot of the bullies were well known to everyone!!!); they accepted that we had never been given a copy of the school prospectus and expressed (false) concern about this although they misleadingly and wrongly call the prospectus the 'school book'; they refused to comment about the teacher's treatment and complaints of our child but did say the 'other' parents had been informed about the 'sexual harassment' incidents (and we didn't need to be told). They refused to let us tape-record the meeting but we did anyway without them knowing. The LEA refused to allow us to take a reporter in with us and when I mentioned taking a solicitor they said the meeting would be cancelled.

A day or three after the meeting we got a letter, brief letter saying the school had 'investigated' our concerns to their would not up-hold our complaint.

The Director of Education meanwhile sent a letter saying that 'complaints must go to the governors' but that he had spoken to the school and there had been NO bullying; he added "Perception doesn't appear to reflect reality". I sent a stinking letter showing the governors' letter which clearly says 'concerns had been dealt with'; as the concerns were the bullying by pupils and a teacher, obviously bullying went on for 'concerns' to have been dealt with!

He replied that the school told him there had not been any bullying and refused to apologise for his nasty, insulting comment.

I wrote to the WAG who agreed to take up our complaint against the school governors. They sent a letter showing the 'procedure' which was simple enough: there was no time limit for complaints or additional complaints to be sent.

WAG agreed to take up the complaint against the governors. Their written procedure says basically that complaints go back and forward until they're exhausted; there is no time limit for this.

During this time WAG mentioned (WAG Circular 03/04) the procedure to be used by governors and parents when making complaints. Much of the content has the backing of the law and would link in with the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. We were not previously advised about any proper governors procedure, so we did not know there was one.

We rang WAG and discussed additional complaints based on Circular 03/04. WAG agreed to include them and said they would wait for additions in writing before going back to the Governors (the lady dealing with our complaint put all of this very clearly in writing; phone call, contents and acceptance). Some of these additions were quite serious matters. For example our child should have been asked/allowed to give evidence at the governors meeting (about the bullying to him by pupils and teacher). It may have helped with his healing process and he did have the right under above UN Convention but we did not know. The headmistress should be allowed to speak at the meeting and then she must leave unless it has been previously decided by EVERYONE that she can stay. We were not asked, she was there from the start to the finish (we assume to make their 'gang' more intimidating). Not long after these additions were made we suddenly received the WAG report on our complaint. I say suddenly because they had until this point dragged everything out for months and months; we thought the additions would mean more months of waiting, but no. However we were disgusted when we read the results. The WAG had dismissed most of the complaints before these additions because, although the governors had it on record that we did not receive a school prospectus, anti-bullying policy or complaints procedure (and they accepted this) they then did an about turn and insisted that we had received copies - the WAG accepted their version and said a 'complaints procedure was vaguely outlined in the school prospectus' so we should have known how to go about it. Actually, according to Circular 03/04, ALL parents new to the school should be given a detailed complaints procedure (this has the backing of the law); the WAG decided to ignore this fact. When we got to the additions based on Circular 03/04 the WAG stated that 'these additional complaints could not be included because they were received outside the time-limit'. In total they upheld approximately five very minor complaints just to shut us up.

I wrote and provided evidence that there was no such time-limit and included the letter from the woman in Pupil Support saying the additions had been discussed and accepted. Funnily enough she no longer has that job!!!

The WAG response was "Contents of 03/04 are only recommendations although we would expect the LEA's to follow them". Obviously LEA's feel differently. I replied to WAG pointing out that IF something has the backing of the law it is not a recommendation and must be implemented.

WAG declined to reply. I sent letters to Minister for Education who also refused to respond. Finally, weeks later after I had sent several e-mails, I got a letter from the Head of Pupil Support (WAG) saying that my child is no longer at the school so they could do anything, that they had taken up some complaints, and finally that they would not be replying to any more correspondence about this issue.

My child was not at the school when I started the complaint but it was considered acceptable then. Also, I cannot find one scrap of evidence saying that WAG can only investigate complaints against school governors if the child is still at the school.

Parents must back up/support every word they say with written evidence; Schools, LEA's, Teachers, Governors and WAG can say, add, change, twist or ignore anything they like on a whim. They can with-hold information, deny access to information and even with-hold information requested under the Data Protection or Freedom of Information Acts, as they have done. Try complaining about that and see where it gets you - a stroke, nervous break-down or heart attack, but no results.

I could, of course, complain to the Local Government Ombudsman but what for? They all have hands in the same pocket, so in effect the governors, school, LEA and WAG have got away with it.

Incidentally, we got hold of a copy of Pembrokeshire LEA's guidance on governors' meetings and complaints - it only reflects the contents of Circular 03/04 if you have no eyes and no brain.

It took the WAG over two years to make this decision; I have it in writing from them that everything I sent them first went to their lawyers. Isn't it nice that taxpayers, many of whom cannot afford a solicitor, are paying for governments and local authorities to make sure our complaints get nowhere?

The WAG was also informed that as part of his evidence to the ombudsman, the Director of Education had submitted a falsified copy of minutes (supposedly) taken at a meeting we had to discuss all the problems and bullying. We provided certified copies of the original minutes; the WAG response was 'it is a matter for the Local Ombudsman' and we all know why that is.....

Due to continual harassment (including telephone calls, which stopped abruptly when I wrote to the LEA and said I was going to record them) and aggressive behaviour by the LEA's Director of Education and his staff, I made a complaint to WAG. All communications with WAG were to Pupil Support unless otherwise stated. WAG advised me that 'correct procedure' was to follow the 'Local Authority Complaints Procedure' first. I sent a very long, detailed complaint to the Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council. This included matters such as the LEA deciding they could ignore WAG policy for children who are school phobic, which means that sick-notes are NOT required as long as School Phobia is a medical diagnosis and parents should not be treated in the same way as parents of 'unauthorised absent' children. The LEA continually harassed me, knowing full well that this was causing more stress, upset and distress and resulted in my child self-harming more often and more severely and eventually threatening to kill himself at the age of seven.

Life was hell thanks to these LEA thugs. They continued this harassment, with threats of taking legal action until I de-registered my child - AFTER he had been assessed by an educational psychologist. The LEA also said if I did not de-register I must provide sick note (or else) but if I did de-register my child he could not be seen by the educational psychologist; this is not actually fact or law either, something they chose to ignore.

Despite serious complaints backed up by evidence, The Chief Executive dismissed my complaint and gave the LEA a pat on the back, adding insult to injury. I doubt that anyone actually read the complaint.

I went back to WAG, who said they could take up this complaint but I would be better going to the Ombudsman - the reason they gave is that the Ombudsman can order compensation to be paid. WAG knew some of the complaints and obviously decided there was something to investigate; all of these 'bodies' take a long time deciding if a complaint warrants investigation.

I spent months putting together a meticulous, comprehensive complaint for Ombudsman, supported by WAG policy documents, Circulars, letters to and from LEA/others and so on. Other voluntary bodies had looked at a lot of this complaint and decided there was a case to answer. I included a section relating to bullying complaints to WAG/School, not the physical bullying but maladministration by LEA, for exaple refusal to provide information etc., but the Ombudsman returned this quite quickly saying he could not deal with bullying issues (actually he can under these circumstances). He decided he would investigate my complaint. There would have been dozens of complaints in all, including some minor ones I did not expect him to take-up, but I was advised to add them anyway. The Ombudsman said there was no complaint to answer and rejected it - this included the LEA providing false information, withholding information requested under Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts, falsifying documentation and ignoring laws (evidence was clearly shown) and ignoring the UN Convention on Rights of the Child to mention a few things.

We made a complaint to the Supervisor in the Ombudsman office. The Supervisor repeated what the 'investigating' officer said. He did state that I often refused to accept the judgement of the LEA (who wouldn't if it was unlawful?) and kept on questioning their decisions (quite right, they refused to clarify anything and provided mis-leading/untrue information or with-held things. The Government does encourage people to do this 'questioning' - apparently it 'empowers us!!)

I rang someone higher up in the Ombudsman's office who agreed, after listening to examples of complaints ignored, to have the complaint looked at properly. A letter arrived within a few days from 'the Supervisor' saying the complaint had been properly dealt with. I sent an e-mail saying "anyone who can speed-read this fast ought to be working for the Intelligence agency".

I had also made a complaint against my child's teacher who ignored his Dyslexia and intelligence, but punished him daily. I eventually obtained the evidence needed from health professionals who had refused to hand paperwork over for many months because it painted a very bad picture of the teacher. For example she admitted that my child missed considerable amounts of play time because he couldn't stay focussed and was made to finish work. In her official response to our complaint she said my child was 'asked' to stay in occasionally for a few minutes! She gleefully wrote on his school report that he was made to sit on his own in the class room and so on, yet in two years she did not think to follow WAG policy and investigate WHY my child was having these problems, especially as us parents had brought matters (like our child not recognising various letters) to her attention more than once. There was a letter from health-visitor who was concerned that 'this delightful child appears to be of above average intelligence and is probably under-stimulated' - it took her five minutes to spot what a 'trained expert' could not work out in two years. This school was (IS) very Welsh, teaching mainly locals whose grandparents and parents attended, and they do not like outsiders. The governors harp on about the excellent report they got from school inspector in 2001 (Two years before my child started) and pointed out the bit where it said "0% drift". Between 2002 and 2005 there had been a landslide with a fifth of the children leaving mainly due to bullying. In a school of just over 22 pupils (possibly 23) this is a lot of kids.

The Teaching Council for Wales, which accepts very few complaints to investigate, did accept this one, but also decided there was no complaint to answer (eventually). They based this decision on 'evidence' provided by governors, the teacher and the LEA. I requested the evidence under the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. They refused to let me have evidence provided by the teacher. Governors' evidence was that "these SEN matters were not brought up at the governors' meeting" - I provided copies of official complaints to Governors showing these issues were clearly detailed AND minutes of the governors' meeting which showed they HAD been raised, but not addressed in the meeting.

The LEA said these matters HAD been discussed at the governors' meeting (contradicting the governors' statement) and 'investigated' by LEA - I provided evidence that LEA 'investigation' consisted of two letters, one saying 'Two years is not long enough for a teacher to recognise these problems' (despite WAG/other policy/documentation which states otherwise). The second letter said 'each school has its own policies for investigating SEN'.

I sent this additional evidence to the Teachers Council of Wales after being invited to do so along with a copy of the latest School Inspectors Report which says the school is STILL NOT achieving adequate standards in reading and writing and again the complaint was turned down. An idiot could see that the teacher was negligent and a bully but these agencies work together to pervert the course of justice. Actually they start out hoping to intimidate parents or wear them so far down that they just give up; in many cases this works.

We also involved the Children's Commission for Wales who were bloody useless and so far up the LEAs backside they could have been public speakers promoting them.

One thing I find very suspicious is that the woman in Pupil Support (WAG) who took up our complaint and who was nice, helpful and friendly disappeared from her job as soon as I pointed out that the WAG could not refuse some complaints due to a fictitious 'time-limit'. I have no idea where she went, when we tried to find out we were just told that 'she no longer works at this job'. Why - was she too good at it and truly impartial, too helpful and honest?

That's the lot. I had a solicitor via Legal Aid but all he wanted to do was force the council to Statement my child and/or make the LEA pay for him to go to a small, specialised school for School Phobic. As my child was in no fit state to go to any school at all this was a waste of time and the Health Visitor/GP had requested my child be assessed so there was no point other than to line the solicitor's pockets.

See also Western Telegraph, Wednesday November 30th 2005 AND Western Mail, Monday January 23rd 2006. The cuttings do not scan very well and are not wonderfully accurate but they are not exaggerated, they just confused the details.

Kidscape offered to come to Wales to run ZAP courses for bullied kids but the WAG/LEA refused to fund them for even a week although they do pay thousands of pounds for bullies to receive special courses. In schools trouble-makers get big rewards when they act normally; good kids get nothing and wonder if their normal, good behaviour is worth it, after all 'if you are bad you get rewards'.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair slammed the No Blame Policy as ineffective and cruel and said it should be scrapped; the WAG refused to scrap it but refused to discuss the issue with Sky News or Kidscape.

There is nowhere left to go. I had intended trying the European Court of Human Rights but was told I had to go through the British courts first - hard to do when you can't get Legal Aid and as more and more people in Britain live in poverty that means the majority of us.

I hope this does some good, to highlight the lies, corruption and total futility of making a complaint about anything to do with many schools in Britain if nothing else. These bodies and officials are pure scum.

Christine Jones.

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