According to the law, child protection is everyone's responsibility. We have the police, Social Services, Child Protection Teams, Child Safeguarding Boards, Child Protection Charities, Family Courts and the power of Government legislation. A vast array of bodies, authorities, charities, policy and law makers all supposedly committed to protecting children. And then we have our Members of Parliament. Upstanding men and women, elected to represent us both as individuals, and together with our families, children and local communities, within the power base of Westminster.
Why then, when multiple children are harmed through bullying and violence at school, some to the point of suicide (currently the leading cause of death in young people, according to the ONS), will those MPs, official authorities and charities not act?
Of course the public is also responsible for the safety and welfare of children. Why then are grieving parents who stand up to report harm to their children, faced with a wall of silence, indifference, inaction and even hostility by the very state apparatus with paid responsibility to protect children? Why do the all so powerful media companies, including the BBC of course, show faint heart in reporting the issue of bullying and suicides of children in school, or even fail to report altogether?
Why do those upstanding MPs and Right Honourable Members of Parliament shy away from meeting parents who report these tragic cases - even when the parents are their own constituents?
If the matter at hand, bullying and violence, affected only a handful of children, then perhaps the usual excuse, that those in power are just too busy to be drawn into each and every individual case, applies. But the reality is very different. Thousands of children are being affected. Indications suggest the figure sits around 1 in 5 of the UK school aged population. Why the 'suggestion? Because our Dispatches interview reveals that data on serious bullying and violence in schools is frequently not recorded, and schools get away with this because the law allows them to do so. Cases are not recorded due to poor school management and also to simply protect reputations, and cover-up.
Significantly if children's concerns for bullying and assaults were properly recorded in schools by law, it is highly likely that children would also reveal other instances of abuse against them. Could it be that the State does not want children to have a voice to speak out to protect themselves? Many of those investigating the failure of the State to act in cases of sexual abuse of children would think so.
In this remarkable Dispatches interview, Jason Barnett reveals how, having blown the whistle on widespread bullying in the special school in which he was a teacher, he lost his job and was unable to gain justice at a tribunal. More importantly he was to learn that bullying, frequently vicious and leading to physical harm including suicide, was affecting many children and families. When Jason reached out, he discovered that many of these families were traumatised and often lost - the so called child protection system having either ignored their voices of concern, or worse, warned them off.
Some seven years later, after bringing families together, organising meetings, discussion and publicity, Jason turned to the UK Column in a bid to get the real story out about the failure of the State to protect children in schools across the country.
What each and every one of us can learn from this interview is that not one of our MPs stepped forward to help the multiple families that reported similar abusive bullying in schools, which in some cases had led to suicide. No one of the 650 MPs, including the Minister for Education, engaged to understand the scale of the problem, and the total failure of schools and the education system to protect the children in their care.
Every MP was invited to a meeting on the issue of school bullying and suicide at Westminster. Only one attended and he failed to take action. That being so, every one of us has the opportunity to challenge our own constituency MP for their failings, cowardice and indifference towards the preventable suffering of children bullied at school.
And we need to act because as Jason Barnett remarked, "we live in a country where the State locks adults in their homes to 'protect' them from a winter virus, yet it fails to take any meaningful action to protect our children in schools."
Should we allow our politicians to get away with this? If we do we have failed as both parents and decent human beings. Please watch the interview here:
It is a video Dispatches and runs for 1hr 23 min. If listening to audio only be aware there are two very short sections which have on screen text and no audio. Contact details for Jason Barnett and Brian Gerrish can be found at the end of the video.