By Dr Carrie Herbert, founder and Chief Executive of the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group (pictured, left) and children’s author Rosemary Hayes – authors of Rising Above Bullying: From Despair to Recovery, published this month by JKP.

Rising Above Bullying is a book for all those who encounter bullying. For those who are being bullied and their families, for the perpetrators and their families and for teachers and other adults who are in a position of influence. And for the bystanders – those who ‘turn a blind eye’ thinking it is not their business. We all have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety of our children; adults must be proactive in putting a stop to bullying behaviour. This involves doing something if you believe a child is being subjected to unkind and unpleasant treatment.

The sections which deal with coping strategies and the advice to parents and teachers on how they can be proactive in preventing or dealing with bullying have been compiled after years of first hand experience in recovering severely bullied children at Red Balloon Learner Centres. It is our hope that this invaluable advice will be absorbed by adults and passed on to children who are experiencing bullying, helping them to begin to find a way through their misery, to deal with their tormentors and to regain their self-esteem.

The sheer scale of bullying is often not recognised; gang-bullying and cyber bullying, for example, are both relatively new – and they are escalating.

Rising Above Bullying also serves to make readers aware of the long term effects of bullying – and this is brought sharply into focus by the stories in the book recounted by young people (Red Balloon students and ex-students) who have suffered such traumatic bullying that they could no longer cope in mainstream education. Most of us think of bullying as a bit of unpleasant behaviour: a poke or pinch here or there, being called a few names, being ignored. What you will read about here is the traumatic, tortuous, systematic destruction of a young person’s self worth and self-belief.

In order to recount their experiences, these children have had to return to this trauma and relive their pain and fear. For some, the bullying happened a decade ago, for some it was only a few months ago. We are enormously grateful to them all and hope that their courage in contributing to Rising Above Bullying will show readers how destructive bullying can be. Their stories make uncomfortable reading but they are all based on personal experiences – though, for obvious reasons, all names have been changed – and illustrate just how widespread and diverse bullying is. The damage inflicted can be devastating so it is crucial that bullied children don’t suffer in silence. Overcoming their reluctance to admit to being bullied is the first hurdle. They need to be able to trust not only the person or organisation in whom they confide but also their school and their family to deal with the bullying and to keep on top of it. ‘Letting on’, ‘snitching’, ‘grassing’ can often make things worse if ongoing support from school and home is not forthcoming.

Not only have Red Balloon students contributed to this book but we have also had the help of staff at the centres in Cambridge, Norwich, Merseyside and North London who have given freely of their time, answered questions and set up interviews. They are in a unique position to provide comfort, counselling and one-to-one targeted education that begins where the child left off learning. They rebuild confidence and teach useful strategies to help students deal with bullying behaviour.

Dr Carrie Herbert is founder and Chief Executive of the Red Balloon Learner Centre Group, a qualified teacher and Educational Consultant.

Rosemary Hayes is a children’s writer, a reader for an authors’ advisory service and runs creative writing workshops for both children and adults.

The book’s Foreword was written by Esther Rantzen, CBE, journalist and broadcaster and patron of Red Balloon, amongst other various hospices and charities for children and disabled people.

For more about Red Balloon, visit

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

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