My school days – John Gelmini – English children among the unhappiest in the world at school due to bullying | Society | The Guardian

Bullying UK

Bullying UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can relate to this Guardian article, brought to us by Dr Alf because I was the child of an immigrant and faced bullying at school, from the age of four to eight, whilst under Cambridgeshire County Council and from age eight to ten under Hertfordshire County Council.

At infant and primary school, I was bullied because of having no father (he abandoned my mother and I, which meant that because of Nazi scorched earth policies and the destruction of my late mother’s village in Italy, she had to migrate to the UK and seek work without knowing a soul, with very little money and nowhere to live).

With a non-English surname, registration as an alien for my mother, plus reporting to the local police station, one was bullied for being different, so that every day was one of violent fisticuffs to the point where to this day, the right hand front half of my upper teeth is uneven. Neither the head teacher nor the local authority did anything to stop this, so it was a case of standing up to the bullies and fighting them or getting beaten.

When my mother married and I was adopted and legitimized aged eight and when we moved to Hertfordshire the bullying started again. Every day, I would be forced to fight one, sometimes two, and once three people simultaneously but since I was at that time very wiry and used to spend much of my weekends sawing and collecting firewood to supplement the coal we used to burn and earn pocket-money, I was able to see them off.

There was no time to be depressed and the teachers and headteacher were oblivious to the problem, even when my late mother visited the school to complain.

At the age of ten, one boy John Connor, who was about twice my size, decided that I was going to be the surrogate who would pay the price for his father’s torturers during World War II. I had a similar surname to these Fascist war criminals, and was going to pay dearly for what they had done.

At that time my hair was longer, than it is today so Connor grasped a handful of it and started banging my head on the asphalt playground surface as hard as he could. He drew blood and would have done serious violence to me had I not bitten his arm and made him spring back. I was much faster than him and applied a neck scissors hold with my legs in order to stop him, so that before he could react I had applied enough pressure to make his already florid complexion red then purple. At that point, three teachers decided that my former tormentor had had enough and took me to the headmaster, a Mr Wesley, who told me with a straight face, even though I was covered in my own blood and still bleeding that “I needed to learn to live with people”, “that I had brought to bullying upon myself” and that he would be reporting me to the local authority. Soon I discovered that this meant being assessed and interviewed by a psychologist and given hundreds of test batteries with the same questions appearing in different orders. My memory is pretty good, so I was able to increase my test scores to the point where they were astonished but I would not tell them what they wanted to hear which was that I had brought the bullying on myself. Mr Wesley and the psychologist subsequently came to our house and told my mother they were going to send me to a different school. She and my late father, a man who did not mince his words, sent them packing, and my mother then enlisted the help of her former employers from Great Shelford in Cambridge (she was a History lecturer at Girton college and he was a dermatologist in private practice in Cambridge). The County Council and the headmaster and the psychologist were forced by the representations made by these two formidable and well-connected people to back-down and after seeing off John Connor, I was never bullied again.

Children nowadays are bullied over dress, the nature of their mobile phones, race, hairstyles, fashion sense, being “thick”, being a SWOT, accents, social media presence, trendiness, speech, use of slang and gang culture. The problem is worst in State schools, and in workless or working class areas where parents are known to beat up teachers and even headteachers and to send their children to school without breakfast and therefore in too tired a condition to study.

Standards in school, discipline and teaching methods, the hours that pupils put in, and bullying are down to local authorities and useless heads and, of course, Government Ministers who are afraid to confront the electorate.

The problems are understated because the useless heads subvert or sack traditional “whole class teachers” and hide bullying and bad behaviours from the Ofsted Inspection regime by putting troublesome pupils, bullies and the disengaged into “pupil referral units” which Ofsted does not inspect. Local authorities are guilty of encouraging this sort of concealment but really the Government needs to deal with those authorities by removing schools from local authority control and forcing those authorities to merge via financial pressure.

The Chinese teachers brought in to teach pupils in Hampshire found that British students at the Comprehensive school they taught at as part of a television experiment were lazy and indisciplined and they were astonished at the lack of respect they were shown as they tried to develop “classroom management skills” which they had no occasion to use in China.

Lazy and overweight parents who do not lead by example or teach their offspring right from wrong are at fault and the preponderance of female teachers and “differentiated teaching” with multiple curricular is another.

One of the Chinese teachers made the point that the UK’s welfare system was to blame by allowing people who did not work to get money thus removing the incentive to study hard which was the situation in China where welfare does not exist.

Apart from bullying, the other cause of depression is Vitamin D deficiency, which stems from not getting enough sunlight and poor diet/insufficient food.

John Gelmini