My Child is Being Bullied and the School is Doing Nothing to Help!

My Child is Being Bullied and the School is Doing Nothing to Help!

This is a cyclical story put out by popular press. The student is different each time but the damage is similar (see an example here). The victim is hugely anxious and depressed or has attempted suicide. The parents have tried to get the school to do something about it and, apparently, the school has failed to take action. It makes a great story for the media and the gives the social media judges the chance to roundly condemn the teachers, school and principal and so spread the collateral damage to include the school. In this story no one wins but the media (they get to sell advertising).

The reality of what is
happening in the schools is usually vastly different from the story put to air.
I have never come across a school that didn’t take bullying seriously. The
problem for schools is that it is one of the most difficult problems to deal
with that they are rarely successful at getting things resolved. Here is why:

  • Bullying is fun:

    Think of the bully for a moment and their motivation for bullying. For them,
    bullying gives them power over another and impresses their peers. This is the
    reality for most bullies and it gives them a good feeling.

  • Bullying is easy to hide:

    It is easy for someone to be a bully and not get caught. A poke in the back; a
    whispered threat; finding someone a distance from supervision; exclusion;
    setting up a person as a friend and then turning on them, etc. The list of
    things a bully can do and not even come close to being caught is endless.

  • Teachers have to be like the police:

In years
past a teacher who suspected bullying going on was able to react against the
bully. The teacher didn’t have to have any hard evidence and parents would
generally support the action taken by the teacher. Not any more!

Just like the police, the teacher needs to have clear and defendable proof that
the bully had been doing the bullying. Given that the bullying is so easy to
hide, it is nearly impossible for the teacher to have enough evidence to react.

Even a case that seems black and white is difficult. Imagine you have seen the
known bully punching the known victim in a playground fight. It seems black and
white and quite defendable. But what do you do when the bully claims that the
victim started the fight by trying to trip the bully as he walked by or that
the victim had been mercilessly teasing and insulting the bully until the bully
just reacted?

Suddenly the waters are muddy and, even though you are pretty sure the bully’s
claims are false, the bully will cling to the claims and you could end up
accused of victimizing the bully.

  • If the victim complains, the situation will get
    worse but go further underground.

    See this from the bully’s point of view. When the bully is pulled up, they feel
    they have lost face in front of their peers and they want to regain this. The
    easiest way is to resume the bullying. They just make it more subtle.

    The bully can also see this as a challenge by the victim and a bully will rise
    to such a challenge.

  • Bullying can happen anywhere:

    Bullying today goes far beyond the school gate. Students engage in various
    online platforms and they are able to use those platforms to create bullying
    that goes on into the evenings and weekends.

  • Bullying is often group behaviour:

In our quick
to judge world, kids are probably the quickest to judge. It takes little
evidence of a slight or a difference before the person becomes vilified by a
group. Such group behaviour is hard to isolate and change.

  • Bullies are following behaviour patterns from

    While not true in every case, a bully often learns their behaviour from
    modelling at home. Parents of bullies do often exhibit behavior that gives the
    child the impression that bullying is okay. A child may, for example, see the
    behaviour of their father to their mother or overhear a mother talk
    vindictively about another.

  • The parents of bullies are a problem for the

    When a bully is pulled up by the school, they have to deal with the parents of
    that child and that is really difficult. No parent wants to hear that their
    child is behaving in such a way so they may start a loud and often aggressive
    defense of their child. This is highly stressful for schools to deal with and a
    source of physical assault on teachers and principals.

  • School programs on bullying have limited effect:

    Schools do try to change behaviours by running programs related to bullying.
    The programs usually have a couple of foci. One is to build resilience and
    provide strategies for the victims and the other is to help the bully feel
    empathy for the victim.

    There are some really terrific programs that schools put into place, but the
    overwhelming tide going the other way makes it hard for programs to be

  • Victims crave acceptance:

    When a person is bullied, a common reaction from adults is to advise the victim
    to not hang around near the bullies. This is usually not an option for the
    victim because such action can leave them isolated at a time of their lives
    when acceptance by peers is perhaps their number one priority.

As you can see, schools have
a nearly impossible job in coping with bullying. This is not to say that a
school should do nothing or that a school could not be doing things better but it
is important to understand that the above is the current reality for schools.


I want to revisit this topic
again in the near future and look at how we as parents should be reacting to
and dealing with one of our children if they are the victims of bullying. If
you have tried to cope with a child being bullied at school, how did you go
about it? How did the school (no names please) react?

Bring Back Snakes and Ladders

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay

As children grow towards formal education, parents are concerned to give them a head start and this includes maths. The common routine for this is to present the child with counting rhymes and songs and have them play apps that count balloons and record answers etc.

While this approach to numbers has some benefit for children, it is limited in developing a deep sense of number that would give them a sound foundation for what’s to follow at school. Games like Snakes and Ladders are different.  They provide learning in a fun journey over the games board and it is surprising how deep maths thinking evolves. Here are some of the benefits:

The game is played with a 6 sided dice. One of the early targets for learning maths is for the child to recognize small quantities without having to count them and playing with a dice is a great way to start this process.

The children are constantly counting. At first they will use a finger to count their token forward, but as they recognize patterns, they will just jump the token ahead to the desired location.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Snakes and Ladders game is the amount of maths that child does along the way. Even though it makes no difference to the moves in a game, each child is constantly working out their chance to win. They calculate things like how far away is the next ladder, how far away is the end, how far in front or behind am I. And of course each move of the opponent is closely supervised to prevent cheating.

Traditional games like snakes and ladders are brilliant at
developing maths in young children. If you want it to be of benefit though,
make sure you are using a real dice and a real board because using an app loses
nearly all the benefits. If your child is over the challenge of playing Snakes
and Ladders, try playing backwards and another world of learning will open up.

Parent Violence at Schools

Parent Violence at Schools

The Violent Parent

One in three principals have been
assaulted. This is being reported today on the ABC.,-parents-says-acu-report/10850336

This is an unacceptable but sadly a growing
trend over recent years. The reasons for this are many and varied and it would
take a huge volume of research to fully reveal the causes of this rise. Here is
what I think needs to be looked at closely:

  • “My child doesn’t lie” is a
    belief that many parents have. The reality is that we all either lie or at
    least tell things in a way that puts us in a favourable light. Children are very good at
    this. In my experience, most issues parents have with a school are because
    their child has either lied, omitted information or exaggerated things. Parents
    need to understand that all children do this to some extent and start by trying
    to understand what actually occurred instead of taking their own child’s story
    as being 100% accurate.
  • There is a growing trend with
    the current generation of parents to be hyper-defensive of their child. Being a
    good parent has come under the spotlight in the past decade and parents are now
    feeling social pressure to be a good parent. A very visible way of doing this
    is to react when a perceived injustice has occurred.

  • Parents are sometimes poorly
    educated themselves or have a negative attitude towards schools or teachers
    from their own schooldays, and feel out of their depth when addressing an issue
    at school. One way to cover this feeling of inadequacy is to be verbally and
    physically aggressive.

  • Social media has a lot to
    answer for. In group chats and forums, people freely vilify others with scant
    evidence. The actions they freely promote are violent and aggressive. If a
    parent has posted an issue with a school, social media will often promote an
    unrealistically extreme response.

  • Reality television has a lot to
    answer for. The producers know that making a reality television show popular
    means they must go beyond the bounds of what are social norms and introduce
    more extreme behaviours. This is gets people watching. 
    Being confrontational, argumentative and openly hostile are promoted in
    these shows and the shows’ advertising.

    Research has demonstrated how powerful television dramas and reality shows are
    in providing a model of what acceptable behaviour
    is. The model reality television thrusts in front of today’s families is one
    that is saying you need to openly confront and be hostile.

  • Schools are also part of the
    problem. School structures and procedures are often poorly thought out and
    advertised so parents don’t have a clear and satisfactory process to follow. If
    a parent has a grievance that they consider to be urgent and important, there
    needs to be a clearly defined way that this can be addressed. The parent should
    never be in a position of feeling that they need to walk in to the school and
    simply confront a teacher or principal.

    Some schools will have procedures for this, but they often still lack some
    simple steps in the process which are vital to calming a situation down:

    • Whenever there is a potentially
      explosive issue, the school needs to insist that the parent have an advocate
      there with them. This provides a third calming voice to interpret and reason.
      If the parent has no advocate, the school should have some volunteers to call
      on who can help. Before the meeting, the advocate should sit with the parent to
      listen to their side of the story.

    • Parents need to feel that their
      issue is being addressed. I have not come across many schools that actively
      follow up parents after an issue has been raised to see that things have been
      resolved. This preemptive action goes a long way to making sure an issue does
      not escalate.

  • Governments and education
    departments also must rethink things. Parents find it difficult to resolve
    issues where a principal seems to be making a poor decision. The steps for this
    are obscure and difficult for parents to navigate. Given that they have tried
    to address an issue already and feel they have received no satisfactory
    response, it is not surprising that parents feel that assault is the only
    option open to them.

Do you have thoughts on this? Please add
your comments, but do not name any individuals or schools.

Choosing a Book to Read to My Child

Choosing the right books to read to your child is not a simple matter. If you choose the wrong books, your child can start to think of the reading sessions as a boring activity, but choosing the right books can help your child love reading and engross them in an activity that will last the rest of their lives.

Here are some hints that will help you along the way:

  • Because you are reading to your child, it is okay to choose a book with a slightly higher vocabulary than they would choose themselves. This is a great way of introducing new vocabulary to them.

  • Choose from your child’s interests. This can be a great place to start and will give you a boost if you are trying to establish a reading routine. As time goes by, though, it is worth introducing some different genres as this will expand vocabulary and allow the exploration of new things.
  • Choose something that is exciting very quickly. This is a terrific way to get a child hooked in a book and can be very good for establishing a reading routine.

  • If your child has poor concentration levels, it is worth starting with short stories or novels that have a mini adventure in each chapter.

  • Explore an author. If your child has already read a book from an author and enjoyed it, introduce another book by the same author. This opens up the chance to compare and contrast the two works.

  • Don’t select the book they are using for a reader at school. Reading to your child is a time to enjoy a book together. When you are reading a school reader, you are likely turning it into work.
  • Choose high quality literature. There are many books written for children and most of them are of a poor standard. They are based on simple formulas and fail to do any more than relate a simple adventure.
    There are many places to see lists of high quality children’s books. Ask at your local library or check for the short list of top (Australian) books each year.
  • If you had favourite books or authors yourself as a child, use these. There’s a certain magic in sharing your own childhood with your child. This can also be a good choice if you are reading to more than one age group together, because it gives you the excuse of choosing the book.
  • Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to persist with reading a book you really don’t like. Your enjoyment or lack of it will come through in your reading aloud.
  • Join your local library and join your child up as well. This can give a wide selection and freedom of choice without having to worry about cost. It empowers the child in their choice as well.
  • Be adventurous and check out some poetry for children. Again, start with your local library. There are many poems suitable for children. They are often short and memorable (good for reciting) and can introduce humour or feelings in a way that children can understand, especially if you tease it out a bit with questions. Reading poetry aloud has a different pattern from reading stories aloud, so it gives children a bit of variety in the material choice. If your time for reading aloud is restricted, choosing a poem or two makes a complete activity in a short time.

Musing on ASD

I have had a couple of conversations this week with parents seeking help with learning for a child with autism, so I thought it would be worth exploring it a little more.

Autism is a condition where the individual has some combination of difficulty with social interactions, has some degree of obsessive interest and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities. People diagnosed with autism sit somewhere on a spectrum according to the level of difficulty experienced.  

Most often schools are a really difficult place for children with autism. In school a child is pushed by the system to be compliant with group structures and rules and this often runs counter to the drives and sensitivities of the child. Other children can find it difficult to be sensitive towards a child with autism and so the child can end up being ignored or bullied.

While some schools have a deep understanding and sensitivity of the needs of an autistic child and actively run programs across the school to support them, most schools merely try to cope. This makes sending an autistic child to school heartbreaking for the parents and stressful for the child.

If you have a school child who has been diagnosed with autism, the good news is they can learn and they can integrate with other children. Like any learning difference, it can be a barrier to some learning, but you can help your child develop techniques to overcome barriers. It requires extra work and patience by you and by the school but it can be done.

  • Start by visiting  They can provide help for you and the school.
  • Have regular school meetings. Make a list of items ahead of the meetings and make sure the school knows your list before the meeting starts (that will give them time to prepare with ideas and solutions).
  • There are Facebook groups for parents who have autistic children. Join them and share ideas.
  • What you do at home is super important for helping your child. They will need extra help and coaching in coping and the one on one time you give them at home will be invaluable. (see an example here (

If your child goes to school with a child who has autism, take the time to talk to your child about it. It is important to help your child to understand that the child with autism might just have some difficulty with socialisation and needs the patience and support of your child. I remember talking to a tearful mother some years ago whose child had autism. She had tears of joy because her socially awkward child had been invited to a birthday party. The invitation meant an awful lot to the child as it was the first one. Her child was thirteen years old.

One simply trick that makes fractions easy.

Why does my child have so much trouble with fractions?

Of all the areas of maths that cause problems for the young learner, fractions causes the most and I have often seen students in middle and upper secondary school still struggling to understand them. Fixing one simple misunderstanding can solve this.

When children start to learn about numbers, they do so by counting and recognizing quantities (e.g. ‘How many apples are there?’, ‘Can you count to 10?’, etc.).  Kindergartens and schools reinforce counting quantities and digits are formally introduced.. Over and over our children are told numbers tell us how many things there are. This is all important and good…. Until we start with fractions.

Fractions are a way of describing things that are less than one. The tricky part is the bottom bit of a fraction (the denominator). The denominator stops being a normal number and tells us a size instead[i]. For example the ‘4’ in ¼ tells us that the whole object (e.g. cake) should be divided into 4 equal parts (the size is 4).

When we learn, we tend to use what we know already to make sense of new things. For young children, who have been told over and over that a number is a quantity they can count, the denominator is seen in the light of what they have learnt already. This prior knowledge tells them that the denominator is a quantity because it is a number.  This leads them to all sorts of odd results. For example, ½ + ½ = 2/4 (because you can add quantities together).

If your child is struggling with fractions, sit down with them and explain how sizes work in fractions (using clothing sizes as a comparison can help). Once they understand that the denominator just describes the size, the rest becomes easy.

[i] For the purists, we know that the denominator uses quantities to describe the size and does not change from a normal number in this sense, however, for clarity in young learners it is far more important for them to understand the concept of a denominator as describing a size.

NAPLAN: Parents are giving it a thumbs up but should they?

NAPLAN: Parents are giving it a thumbs up but should they?

Parents backing NAPLAN as a guide to children’s progress is a very understandable thing. As parents, we are sometimes unsure of whether the school is giving us the honest information about our children. Having an organisation external to the school doing a check gives us an independent measure of both our child and the success of our school. It seems simple, but the concept of NAPLAN has a raft of unintended consequences that should be considered.

NAPLAN is Inaccurate

The NAPLAN test uses a small number of questions to assess students on a particular week each year. The nature of this means that individual students’ results can be inaccurate. The child may have had a distracting event in their life that week, or they might be a little unwell, or they had a late basketball game the night before, etc. It might also be that one class just happened to focus on one of the areas in the test the week before while another class was going to do it next week and this also skews the results.(See here for more:

As the number of students goes up, the overall accuracy of the results improves as these anomalies get absorbed in the larger numbers. NAPLAN gives accurate information for a state or the country as a whole but is less accurate at a school or individual level.

NAPLAN Causes School Panic

Because school results are readily available to parents, schools have become very concerned about NAPLAN results. Apart from the inaccuracies outlined above, it is right that schools should be concerned, but what schools actually do about this is sometimes alarming.

If a school is worried about poor NAPLAN results, you would think it would lead to them reviewing their teaching and learning practices and making long term plans to improve things. The NAPLAN tests could then be used as a benchmark for the success of those changes. This would be a fantastic result and does happen in some cases. (See here for more:

For many other schools, though, this worry only makes things worse. The school, worried about losing students, tries to game the system. They do this by spending weeks before the NAPLAN tests giving their students practice on sitting the tests. This gaming of the test leads the school to get inaccurate results and the NAPLAN test grows to become a stressful event for the student. (Read more here

Students see themselves as failures
Our schooling system uses a method of teaching where all students are expected to be doing the same work based on their grade level. There are many reasons for this, with the main one being economics – it is just too expensive to provide appropriate learning to every student individually. The NAPLAN testing measures students’ progress in this system. To be fair, it does measure across several levels, but this does not help struggling students much. Struggling students exist in this system that constantly tells them that they are not smart because they are not at the level of other students in the class. For such students, NAPLAN testing gives them an external opinion that confirms their self-belief that they are just dumb

My child can’t understand their homework… Neither can I!!

So here you are, your child is sitting staring at their maths homework and not understanding how to solve a problem. You can see the frustration building and you want to help. The problem is you can’t solve the problem either!

While it is understandable that a parent can feel inadequate in such a situation, it is my belief that this is one of the greatest opportunities for a parent to assist their child to become a good learner. Here are some reasons why:


The Dreaded Homework Sheet

This week’s topic is a bugbear for many parents where nights are spent helping a tearful child cope with homework in the form of a sheet of activities that need to be completed by the end of the week. The activities usually include some Mathematics and English questions as well as small puzzles. Your child usually doesn’t want to do the sheets and it becomes a point of contention in the household. If your child happens to be coping well at school, the homework sheet may be completed quickly on a Monday night and then there is no ongoing homework for the remainder of the week.