PARENTS and children should never shy away from reporting bullying to their school – that’s the message at the heart of a new initiative led by Oxfordshire County Council.

Schools are being invited to sign up to an ‘anti-bullying’ charter to strengthen the response to bullying across the county and ensure the voices of children and families are always heard and acted upon.

The charter, which contains 10 pledges on tackling bullying, was launched at Chipping Norton School by the council’s cabinet member for Education and Public Health Hilary Hibbert-Biles.

The secondary school, along with neighbouring primary schools St Mary’s and Holy Trinity, are the first to sign up to the charter.

Cllr Hibbert-Biles said: “All schools have a responsibility to tackle bullying wherever they find it, and we know the majority do a good job in supporting their pupils and families.

"We also know that bullying of all descriptions remains a big problem for many children – in Oxfordshire like everywhere else - and we want to work with schools to reduce the impact it can have on young people’s lives.

“By formally signing up to a countywide set of values, schools can focus on ensuring those values are embedded in every aspect of school life.

"It also sends out a very clear message to their pupils and families that bullying will not be allowed to go unchallenged, and that no one should ever feel the need to suffer in silence.”

Headteacher at St Mary’s Primary School Yvonne Stallwood-Barnes said: “We were really keen to sign up because I feel that all schools should provide a safe and secure environment for learning to take place.

"This charter has all the key points that all anti-bullying policies should have, and it summarises the way we are all working to make sure schools are safe and happy places to be.”

Chipping Norton School pupil Will Porter, 12, said: “Knowing that you’re going to a school that doesn’t tolerate bullying, and going to a school that you know will care for you, if you’re being bullied it will help you deal with the effects of bullying.

"It can help you feel cared about and a lot more comfortable.”

Seven-year-old Darcy Portman, of St Mary’s Primary School, added: “Bullying should stop because we don’t want everyone getting hurt. We don’t want our schools to be full of bullying because bullying is an unkind thing to do.”