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40% of School Children Bullied

29-06-2007

'40% of children bullied'

29/06/2007 UTV News

Nearly half of primary school children in Northern Ireland feel they have been bullied, a new report revealed.

Children as young as 10 said they have been taunted, made fun of, called names, subjected to false rumours or physically hurt in cruel campaigns which can last for years.

Education chiefs are to review all schools` policies to combat the threat after studying the startling findings.

And teaching union representatives have demanded tough penalties for bullies over the misery inflicted on their victims.

Seamus Searson of the NASUWT`s Northern Ireland branch, said: "They should be excluded from class straight away.

"Often it`s the youngster bullied who leaves the school because it`s not dealt with properly. They are the ones who get punished."

The University of Ulster research into the nature and extent of bullying found 43% of P6 pupils questioned had been targeted at some stage.

Just over a quarter (26%) revealed it had happened once or twice, while for 17% it could be three or more times during the past couple of months.

One in five (21%) of secondary school pupils surveyed also reported being bullied.

In both age groups a fifth (22%) of children confessed to being the tormentor.

Some said they hit, kicked or pushed their victims around, or even locked them indoors.

Most of the primary school victims were picked on in the playground or athletic field, followed by the classroom when the teacher was absent, and then the lunch room.

Name calling or spiteful teasing was the most common among both sexes. But P6 girls were more likely to be excluded, while for boys physical bullying was more common.

Nearly a quarter said it lasted one or two weeks, while just under 10% faced it for a month, 3.8% for about six months and 4.8% for several years.

With Northern Ireland now more culturally diverse, the research also raised concerns about those victimised on the grounds of disability, religion and ethnicity.

Despite stressing the bullies and bullied are both in a minority, the report warned of the potentially damaging impact.

"Exposure to any bullying behaviour can have serious consequences for children and their mental and physical health can be adversely affected on a long-term basis," it said.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane vowed to step up efforts to deal with the threat after studying the report.

The Sinn Fein MLA said: "Bullying is unacceptable in our schools and I am committed to tackling this issue head-on.

"Mental health problems are one of the most obvious consequences of bullying and can have terrible repercussions.

"Our children need to feel safe and secure in their school environment.

"In light of the report`s recommendations, my department will survey all schools` anti-bullying policies to ensure a consistent approach."

Ms Ruane also confirmed an independent counselling service will be available to all post-primary schools in Northern Ireland by September.

"We are currently examining the possibility of extending this service to primary and special schools," she added.

"I also believe that we should listen to our young people and provide them with the opportunity to have their say on this important issue.

"Our society and our schools are growing more diverse every day and we need to teach our children the importance of respect for the equal rights of all children in our society.

"Tackling the scourge of bullying is fundamental in winning this battle."

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