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Teachers: talk openly about disability and stop kids being bullied like I was

17 November 2014
Ciara Lawrence

When I was at school I got picked on because I was different. The girls in my class called me really horrible names and laughed at me. It always happened when the teachers weren’t around.

The bullying carried on for a long time. The girls in my class made up a group and told me that I couldn’t be in it. They called me horrible names which made me cry. It was awful going into school every day because I knew what I would have to face.

I reported the bullying to my teachers but I was ignored. I felt I had been let down. I ended up leaving the school because the teachers were not able to give me the support that I needed. I shouldn’t have had to leave the school because what happened wasn’t my fault. I moved to a special needs school for girls with a learning disability and I was really happy there and I achieved a lot. I got lots of support.

When I started working in the Campaigns Team at Mencap I got involved with the Don’t Stick It Stop It anti-bullying campaign. The campaign was to raise awareness of bullying of children with a learning disability in schools. I wanted to use my experiences to help other children with a learning disability like me. I was a speaker at the 2008 Anti-Bullying Week launch event and spoke about my experiences of being bullied.

I met with Sarah McCarthy-Fry, who was the Schools Minister at the time, and told her about the campaign and my experiences of being bullied. She wrote a letter to every school head teacher telling them how they needed to make a serious effort to tackle bullying.

I got invited to be a speaker at an Ofsted Schools Inspectors Conference in London and told them about my experiences. I also told them that when they inspect schools that they must also look at the bullying incident records. Now when Ofsted inspect schools, they look for bullying which is a result of our campaign. I was very proud of all the things we achieved from the campaign.

But the fact is, 8/10 children with a learning disability are bullied. Clearly something is wrong. Schools need to tackle this - they need to talk openly about learning disability so that children know it's nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing to feel awkward about or scared of. And the next time a child tries to tell you they're being bullied, don't ignore it.

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