Northampton-based charity says league tables showing schools with bullying issues would help suicidal children

Library picture posed by a model
Library picture posed by a model
  • The Lowdown charity has designed census to get pupils’ views on bullying
  • Experts want to compile league table of ‘best and worst’ secondary and primary schools
  • Increase in number of children with depression and anxiety

Children in Northamptonshire schools are to fill out anonymous surveys about how their teachers deal with bullying.

The idea has been devised by Northampton youth charity The Lowdown in response to a rise in the percentage of people it counsels who have depression and anxiety.

Dawn Wright, executive director of The Lowdown charity

Dawn Wright, executive director of The Lowdown charity

Charity leaders designed a bullying census with backing from Northamptonshire County Council, which they hope will be filled out by the majority of pupils and students aged between seven and 18.

And The Lowdown wants the responses to be used to compile league tables of the ‘best and worst’ secondary and primary schools in Northamptonshire.

Dawn Wright, executive director of The Lowdown, which is based is Kingswell Street, said: “I think turning this data into league tables will make people a bit nervous, definitely.

“You get schools who will say that they just don’t have any bullying and that is the end of it.

“What this will do for the first time is compile enough evidence to see whether the children and young people agree. It’ll be eye-opening.”

The Survey Monkey-style questionnaire should only take 15 minutes to fill out, with the hope schools could ask their pupils to complete them during The Lowdown’s anti-bullying campaign, called Make a Difference Month.

The census will ask pupils if they have been bullied or have seen someone else bullied in the last 12 months, who they told about it, and whether it was dealt with.

July is the target date for collection of the data, although that may be subject to change. The Lowdown wants tables published later on the county council’s website as well as its own.

The idea for the census comes after The Lowdown noticed a rise in depression and anxiety among young people, with 81 per cent of those it counselled having those symptoms.

Since the start of 2013, The Lowdown knows of four child suicides. They have also talked to a handful of children, some aged as young as 11, who have suicidal thoughts.

Along with the recession putting stress on whole families, part of the problem is also the exacerbating effect that social media is having on the age-old issue of child bullying.

Mrs Wright said: “A lot of young people live almost their entire lives ‘virtually’ so I expect that has increased these feelings. Before, when I was a kid, if someone was bullying you at school you had an escape once you got home.

“Now a huge part of their lives is lived out through Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat so there is no let-up.”

Sometimes the bullying leads to self-harm– cutting or burning.

Noticing this, The Lowdown has put together FASH (Fun Alternative to Self-Harm) bags that contain things like elastic bands to give a safe alternative.

But the charity and the county council recognise these are only stop-gap measures and that these worrying feelings are far better tackled at source, hence the push for bullying league tables.

Mrs Wright said: “It will make some people uncomfortable but if children are killing themselves , it has to be done.”