Wakefield Express Column

Growing up with the my surname, I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that I know what it is like to be teased at school. Being a Norwich City supporter growing up in Nottingham didn’t help either.

But for some children, bullying can ruin their school days and drive them to despair. That’s why I made backing the campaign to stamp out bullying a priority when I was Children’s Secretary.

This week is anti-bullying week. Schools across our district have focussed on the subject – making sure every child feels confident to speak up if they are being bullied or see others being picked on – rather than looking away and ignoring what’s happening.

So I’ve also been looking at different ways bullying can appear in our communities.

Earlier this week I met staff and union representatives at a local Co-operative food store, who told me about the issues many shopworkers face from abusive customers. It was shocking to hear that almost a million shopworkers have faced verbal or physical abuse in the past year, usually when asking for proof of age ID.

Most people recognise that shopworkers asking for ID are just doing their job, and helping prevent under-age sales of alcohol and cigarettes, but some people in our communities still seem to think that bullying the person behind the till is acceptable behaviour.

And today I’ve recorded a message for Gay Wakefield, a new website which brings together information about what’s on in Wakefield, with advice and support for gay men and women in our district.

In recent years, there have been a lot of advances for the LGBT community. From an equal age of consent to civil partnerships to banning discrimination in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services.

As Children’s Secretary, I also worked in partnership with Stonewall and Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH) to produce guidance on tackling homophobic bullying.

Because no young person should have to put up with isolation or name calling because of how they look, their disability or their religion, colour or sexuality.

When I was growing up, bullying was a fact of life but it was little talked about. Some people even said bullying benefitted kids by making them ’stronger’.

I am glad those days are long gone. Today we are united in saying that bullies are cowards and no-one should have to put up with it anymore.

You can see my video for Gay Wakefield below:

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Posted November 19th, 2010 by Ed's team