National anti-bullying champion praises Aylsham High School’s Friendly Faces scheme

It was all smiles among Aylsham High School's Friendly Faces crew when a national anti-bullying champion dropped in for the afternoon.

Alex Holmes contacted the 1,000-pupil school to ask if he could visit and travelled up from London to find out more about their award-winning Friendly Faces scheme which sees trained older children keeping a watchful and kindly eye on the welfare of all pupils.

The school has been successfully running the project for a decade, with 60-70 children a year applying for some 40 Friendly Face places, and in November the school was awarded a new Diana Anti-Bullying Champion Award.

Mr Holmes, 23, is leading a UK-wide anti-bullying ambassadors programme, funded by the Department of Education, as part of the Diana Award charity.

'I'm really impressed with what they are doing at Aylsham. I was bullied at primary and secondary school, mostly verbally, and in the sixth form I started a campaign to stop it,' said Mr Holmes.

'If something like Aylsham's got had been around then, I would have felt more confident and perhaps it wouldn't have happened to me.

'It's not just about stopping bullying. Smiling at someone can make their day and make them feel cared for. Children spend 11,000 hours in full-time education. It would be good if every single hour could be happy.'

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Friendly Face members patrol at lunch time in high-visibility jackets and any pupil can approach them for help or advice.

Georgi Connolly, 15, Friendly Faces captain, said there would always be bullying at schools but the scheme effectively controlled it at Aylsham High and helped to create a relaxed, calm atmosphere where everyone tried to be fair and understanding.

Friendly Faces recently visited North Walsham High School to help pupils there set up a similar scheme.

Mr Holmes said campaigners still had to tackle an attitude in Britain which believed a little bullying was character-building and did not do any harm.

It was also difficult to fight against poor role models such as MPs shouting each other down in the House of Commons.

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