Children’s years of bullying hell at school

Cathy Guest and son Ruaidhri with their anti-bullying petition
Cathy Guest and son Ruaidhri with their anti-bullying petition

Two devastated parents have told how their children suffered years of beatings, abuse and teasing and at the hands of cruel bullies at a primary school.

Catherine Guest, 42, of St Mary’s Road, claims 10-year-old Ruaidhri, who attended Sacred Heart School in Old London Road, has been the victim of beatings, name calling and other bullying since he started in the reception class.

At one point, the angry mother said, another pupil tried to strangle her son at the Catholic school around a year ago.

Her son has been traumatised so much by bullying that he even told Mayor Alan Roberts about his ordeal at a recent school choir competition at the White Rock Theatre.

Ruaidhri has also suffered from nightmares most nights.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” said Mrs Guest. “We’ve had so many meetings with teachers but nothing has been done. We’re at out wits end.”

Another parent, who wished not to be named, said her 10-year-old daughter has been kicked several times, spat at and isolated in the playground at Sacred Heart since she was in reception.

She said: “It’s disgusting and it has very much been manipulative bullying. My daughter used to have to bring in presents to school in order for them to play with her.

“We were going to pull her out of Sacred Heart but she decided to stay, saying what was the point in case it was the same for her anywhere else. We don’t know why she is picked on.”

Mrs Guest has launched a petition called for bullying to be stamped out at all schools and for teachers to take a zero tolerance approach.

She has already collected more than 250 signatures. She intends to take it to education bosses at County Hall at a later date.

Mrs Guest said: “I had so many meetings with the school about the bullying with one teacher after the other and nothing was done about it. Those responsible were not expelled but just given a 10-minute detention for instance.

“It has come to the stage that I can’t let him attend school any more. So I was forced to take him out. Ruaidhri had nightmares most nights and would pray every night for the bullying to go away.

“In year one a lot of the children were into Power Rangers but Ruaidhri was into Doctor Who and often played with a toy, as if it was a sonic screwdriver which Doctor Who uses in the show.

“Because he was a fan of Doctor Who other kids would come up and kick him. Year one was the hardest year for him.

“At one point he was beaten very badly and on another occasion, thrown into the sandpit.

“Around a year ago a boy tried to strangle him.”

She told the Observer her son joined a lot of school clubs in order to avoid the bullies in the playground.

Ruaidhri was in Sacred Heart’s school choir, which took part in the 1066 Choir Competition earlier this month at the White Rock Theatre.

Mrs Guest said: “The mayor Alan Roberts was there and Ruaidhi told him he was no longer singing in the choir as he had been bullied at school.”

She said she informed the current headteacher of Sacred Heart, Joseph Hellett, about the bullying after he took over the headship last summer but added he was unaware of the allegations.

“Bullying at school is hidden away. Ruaidhri is a strong boy and would go to school every day but it came to the point where I couldn’t cope any more seeing him suffering like that,” she said.

Ruaidhri was taken out of school in late March and is now being educated at home by his mum and grandmother, an ex-teacher.

Mrs Guest has actively tried to find another primary school for her son to attend, applying to Guestling-Bradshaw but it was full up for September, the mother told the Observer.

She said: “The county council knows we are tutoring Ruaidhri at home and he is doing wonders. His work has improved 100 per cent with one-to-one tuition.

“We would like to get him into another primary school for September but he needs to build his confidence back up together with his self-esteem.”

Cllr Roberts confirmed Ruaidhri has spoken to him and said: “In this day and age with all the controls we have got it is awful to suffer bullying. It should not be tolerated anywhere at all and it’s a shame Ruaidhri had to be taken out of school.”

Father Seamus Stapleton, parish priest for St Mary Star-of-the-Sea, foundation governor of Sacred Heart School, said he wished not to comment on Mrs Guest’s case.

Karen Bowles, spokeswoman for East Sussex County Council, said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases. Parents are able to request a change of school at any time and any decision to refuse their application is accompanied by their right of appeal to an independent school admissions panel.

“Some schools, including academies, trust schools and church aided schools, are responsible for their own admission arrangements but parents have the same right of appeal to an independent appeal panel.

“We currently have places available in Hastings that could be offered if this is requested by a parent.”