There is a girl in Master A’s class who appears to have gone overnight from being a bright shining star to a timid wallflower.

A year back she was bubbly, vivacious, a stand-out in the class. She was a high-achiever; her name constantly being called out in assembly for her smorgasbord of successes.

Whenever there was a competition, in whatever subject, she inevitably would come first. Her name was always in the frame. In the school play, she would always land the lead. She was always picked for solos in the school band, playing several instruments to a Grade 5 level at just nine years of age.

In truth, I found her a tad irritating. She reminded me of a Bonnie Langford type, all fixed grin and annoyingly precocious. My only concession she was a girl, not a boy, and, therefore, I didn’t have to have her over for a playdate or make any comparisons with her to my own child. I would see the mums of daughters in the class raise their eyes at the very mention of her name.

Mark and Anita Abel

She’s not like that now. She’s disappeared, replaced by a child who doesn’t want to be noticed. She slinks around the school and her name is rarely now mentioned.

Strangely, I miss her – and I miss marvelling at her tenacity and ambition.

I mentioned this to her mother this week; asked her if anything was wrong because she no longer seems to be herself; she is a different child, a shadow of her former self.

“She’s having a few problems with some of the girls in the class,” the mother confided. “She’s saying that she wants to move to another school, that she’s not happy here anymore. I don’t really know what to do.”

The other evening, I was moved to tears as I watched on catch-up the interview on This Morning, with the parents of schoolboy Sam Abel who killed himself at 14 after he was bullied.

They described how their talented and gifted son had been taunted by bullies who were jealous of his good school grades – and that the bullying had first started in primary school.

As a society, I wonder what we can do to change this.

For help and advice go to the National Bullying Helpline .

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