As a parent, you want your children to thrive at school, make friends and develop life skills.
Our daughter had been happily doing just that at a school she had been at since nursery age. I remember dropping her off on her first day of school and she ran in without even looking back.
At the age of 9, something changed, she became quieter and more reluctant to go to school. I tried talking to her numerous times and she brushed off the conversation saying she was ‘fine’. As a parent, you know instinctively that something is not right.
We had been out for a family birthday celebration and she hardly ate a thing. I hugged her and told her how worried I was and said she could tell me anything. She then mentioned that another girl in her class was ‘bothering her’. It sounded harmless enough but I promised to email her Form Teacher and sort it out. That day she was moved to sit closer to her Form Teacher and separate from the girl who had been troubling her.
I think this was the breathing space she needed and the confidence that we as parents and her teacher could help her. We thought that all would return to normal but this became the moment where everything came pouring out. It had been much worse that she initially let on. Physical and mental bullying daily, all under the noses of her teachers and classmates. She was holding it all in because of threats from the bully.
We tried to address it through meetings with her Form Teacher and the Headmistress but every conversation that took place resulted in very little action. They were failing to protect her. We asked for them to be put into separate forms which would mean very little crossover during the day. The Headmistress declined to change stating that she felt they were friends and just needed time to sort it all out between them. They remained in the same form and the bullying intensified. Our daughter was coming home bruised and crying most days.
It seemed that the detentions given had only served to anger her bully further and that once she had served them, the school acted as though everything should just go back to normal.
We were frustrated and angry and sending her to school was a constant worry. We started to document everything. It was during an end of term Christmas concert where I observed the girl who continued to bully our daughter move beside her when no one was looking. It was at this point that I felt so strongly that she needed to leave the school to feel safe again.
By the next term in January, she had started at a new school who understood our reasons for changing mid year and made every effort to help build her confidence again.
This only happened over one term but the impact on our daughter was enormous. She became a shell of herself in a matter of weeks. It took far longer to build her up again but in the right environment, she has become the strong, carefree and confident girl she started off as on that first day of school.
She is very aware of others feelings and stands up for those around her who need support in dealing with bullying.
Our learnings from this experience as parents were:
That it was vitally important to listen and to give her space then take actions that would allow her to feel supported and safe.
It is important to document everything so that important details are not forgotten in the emotion of the moment.
Make sure that all conversations are documented or restated in an email so you have all evidence logged.
Remember that if a school is not living up to their duty of care and protecting your child, you have the right to change schools.
Our daughter moved to another school and has thrived in an environment where they supported her and encouraged her through their actions. She is confident and happy and I know she now has the strength to stand up for herself and others.
Nicole Brûlé-Walker lives in a farmhouse in North Yorkshire with her husband, daughter & numerous pets. She is the Director & Founder of Sequoia Wellbeing. Provider of aspirational health & wellbeing programs.