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Ruane targets bullying in schools

28 June, 2004

Sinn Féin Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, today spoke of the challenge that bullying in schools posed to society.

She was speaking as she received a research report into the nature and extent of bullying within our schools, which was undertaken by the University of Ulster. The research revealed that 43% of primary school children and 29% of post-primary perceive that they have been bullied at least once.

The Minister commented: "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. This research provides us with further insight into the nature and extent of bullying in our schools and will help us in our efforts to tackle this problem.

"In light of the report's recommendations, my Department will survey all schools' anti-bullying policies to ensure a consistent approach. By September, an independent counselling service will be available to all post-primary schools in the north, allowing pupils to speak to a trained counsellor about their concerns or fears. We are currently examining the possibility of extending this service to primary and special schools.

"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."

The research also found that, in both primary and post-primary schools, 22% of pupils admitted acting as 'the bully' at one time or another, with the most common form of bullying being name-calling, mockery and teasing. Boys tended to be the victims and perpetrators of physical bullying, whereas girls were more inclined to bully through exclusion.

In conclusion, the Minister said: "Our society and our schools are growing more diverse everyday 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."

The report is called 'The Nature and Extent of Bullying in schools in the North of Ireland'. The Research Briefing can be accessed at:

The Research Report can be accessed at:

The research report was commissioned by the Department of Education and undertaken by a team of researchers from the University of Ulster, headed by Professor Gerard McAleavy.
The research surveyed 993 pupils in Year 6 and 1,319 pupils in Year 9. The results were compared to a previous research study published by the Department in October 2002 "Bullying in Schools: A Northern Ireland Study", in order to identify changes or trends. The new research differed slightly in that it concentrated on the pupil perspective with particular reference to pupil age, gender, religion, ethnicity and disability.

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