Kidscape, a national charity committed to keeping children safe from abuse, says one in 12 children are bullied badly enough for it to affect their education, relationships and even job prospects. Official government figures suggest approximately a dozen youth suicides each year are directly attributable to bullying.
Nowadays there is no respite for victims. Constant contact through social networking sites and mobile phones, so-called 'cyber-bullying', means children are tormented even at times when they should feel safe.
For several years Kidscape has been running workshops for the most vulnerable, often suicidal, young people whose parents have often turned to the charity as a last resort. The 'ZAP' one-day workshop builds self-confidence, equips victims with body language and verbal assertiveness skills, teaches relaxation and creates a support network.
"When the children arrive for the workshop they are unable to meet our eyes," says ZAP manager, Linda Frost. "By the end of the day their confidence levels have soared. It's like watering a flower."
Kidscape has used a PHF grant to replicate the successful ZAP techniques. "We wanted to work with bullied children whose school attendance was already affected, and to pass on skills to the educational professionals who were able to support them," says Linda,
Working with 20 schools in Lincoln, Durham, Norfolk and Buckinghamshire - chosen by the strength of the partners' commitment rather than the prevalence of bullying - Kidscape ran their ZAP workshops with children whose attendance was less than 85 per cent. "Each area had to commit to monitor attendance for three months after the workshop," says Linda. "Overall the attendance of the 800-plus participants increased by an average of 10 per cent."
Teachers, education welfare officers and educational psychologists attended the workshops. "We had a package of support for up to 80 'participant-observers', so best practice was embedded on the ground. One area went on to train an additional 80 staff in ZAP techniques."
With a reduction in the number of educationalists able to support the most vulnerable pupils, Kidscape sees the need for earlier intervention. "If we can empower Year 6 children before they move to 'big school' it would have huge benefits," says Linda. "A child's life can be turned around in this one-day workshop: it gives them a different view on how to deal with an intractable situation."