‘Our pupils would have been on the scrapheap’: the school for bullied children

Every year, 16,000 children leave school because of bullying. Hannah Letters was one of them. She talks about how she got back on track

The bullying started when Hannah Letters was 11. “I struggled with the transition to secondary school and found it hard to make friends.” Her classmates made snide comments about her appearance. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, the comments got worse. She was sent messages on social media, telling her that no one liked her. “One of the girls turned and said to me, ‘If you had looked after your mother better, she wouldn’t have got cancer.’ I had such low self-esteem by then, anything she said I believed. I started to blame myself.”

By the time she was 13, Letters was self-harming. The bullies were constantly on her mind and she would wake up screaming from nightmares. She wasn’t happy with the response she got from her school, and “each time my mother or I complained, the bullying got worse”. When the bullies physically attacked her, it was the last straw for Letters’ mother. She took her off the school roll. That meant her school was absolved of its legal responsibility to provide her with an education. She became yet another statistic: one of the 16,000 children aged 11 to 15 who, each year, “self-exclude” from school due to bullying.

By then, Letters was a wreck and could not contemplate starting a new school. “I felt worthless, stupid, ugly and fat – I didn’t see the point in being alive. I had no motivation to learn.” more

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