The lives of schoolchildren in the Borders must no longer be blighted by bullying.
That was the emphatic message from Councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for education, in a plea issued to both parents and pupils.
“You must tell us as soon as it happens, so it can be nipped in the bud,” said Mr Aitchison at last week’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council.
“Bullying is hurtful and can ruin lives, but I believe we now have an effective policy in all our schools to deal with it, but that can only happen if it’s reported early on.
“We can spend up to 20 per cent of our lives in education and the experience is not just about attainment, but is there to be enjoyed and not blighted by lifelong hurt. It is a very serious problem.”
Mr Aitchison was responding to a question about the current bullying situation in Borders schools from Conservative councillor George Turnbull, who was the portfolio holder for education in the last council administration.
Mr Aitchison commended his predecessor for helping set up the Scottish Borders Youth Commission on Bullying in 2011. This had input from 12 pupils and made 33 recommendations for the prevention and management of bullying behaviour.
“From this, we have developed a ‘respectful relationship’ policy which is currently being implemented across all our schools and is included in all their improvement plans,” said Mr Aitchison.
“While we cannot guarantee that bullying does not exist in our schools, the policy will enable us to adopt a consistent approach when managing, monitoring and reporting bullying incidents across the authority.
“In addition, the policy emphasises the importance of ensuring pupils learn and experience the value of respectful and positive relationships to support them in becoming responsible citizens.
“The policy covers all areas of bullying – including cyberbullying – as well as emotional and physical bullying.”
Mr Aitchison said all school staff and volunteers with responsibility for children were receiving appropriate training to ensure the new policy was effectively implemented.
“All learning settings must provide friendly, confidential and safe ways for bullying behaviour to be reported, and all incidents will be addressed,” he added.