Blair urged to tackle bullying

TV STAR Esther Rantzen experienced aggressive behaviour first hand as she travelled to the high profile anti-bullying conference held in Weston last week. The popular presenter was the star speaker at a national conference held at the Winter Gardens which

TV STAR Esther Rantzen experienced aggressive behaviour first hand as she travelled to the high profile anti-bullying conference held in Weston last week.The popular presenter was the star speaker at a national conference held at the Winter Gardens which aimed to tackle bullying in all its forms.Youths hurled abuse at Esther during her train journey from London to Weston after she confronted them regarding their noise, trouble making, foul language and 'offensive' behaviour. She asked them: "Have you ever heard of Childline?"After the incident she spoke of the "total lack of sensitivity, discipline and understanding among some young people."When asked about the cause and effect of bullying in society, Ms Rantzen said: "It is terribly important that it is recognised as a problem. The conference has allowed people to network and tackle bullying by various means, such as peer mentoring, assertiveness training and friendship development. I believe many schools are in denial and blame the children or families, and part of the problem is that there are too few school representatives at this event. We need to stop bullying by whatever is the most effective way and also ask why some children become aggressive and hostile, and the answers may not be politically correct."Esther also supported the new Government plans, designed to force the parents of bullies to deal with the problem or face a £1,000 fine or parenting classes.She added: "We have to teach parents and children courtesy and care to others and create a safe framework to live within. Again, it may be un-PC, but I am in favour of zero tolerance for bullying and, if that is un-PC that is fine."The conference, which was held over two days, attracted about 700 people and included presentations on anti bullying strategies put forward in song, dance and drama and speeches from bullying victims, child and youth workers, delegates and former bullies.Staged by I Power I, Actionwork and North Somerset Council, a giant petition, signed by all those attending, is due to be given to the Prime Minister. Weston MP John Penrose, who spoke at the event, will present the petition to 10 Downing Street on Monday.Asked what he felt the answer to bullying was, Mr Penrose said: "All of society needs to take responsibility, children and teachers, but not just in schools, in all areas of life. Children are 20 per cent of our population, but 100 per cent of our future, and even stars such as David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Sarah Cox have been victims of bullying, but they have shown it can be overcome."Hollyoaks actor Gemma Bissix was also a speaker at the event. Gemma's screen character, Clare Cunningham, is portrayed as a manipulating bully, but the 23-year-old actress is nothing like her.She said: "I felt compelled to come and speak as I feel very strongly about the issues being discussed here today. Hollyoaks has always supported these campaigns. I think raising awareness of bullying ensures the problem is tackled at the core. The more people that get involved the better."The Weston & Somerset Mercury has already received a letter in praise of the event from a man who was the victim of bullying many years ago. The letter, written by Shaun Whiffen stated; "I am so pleased that there was a conference on anti bullying. There should be more events like this nationwide and TV adverts to stop it happening. I was bullied at school 25 years ago and it has had a negative effect on my life. I self harmed, attempted suicide and ended up needing mental health care. So bullying must be stopped.


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