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National bullying database to be set up under new 'landmark' action plan

This is the first time the Department of Education has updated its bullying action plan since 2013.

A NATIONAL DATABASE is to be set up by Government to enable the publication of an annual national report on bullying in schools. 

The measure is part of a new action plan on bullying which has been launched by Education Minister Norma Foley. 

This is the first time the Department of Education has updated its bullying action plan since 2013, with the minister describing it as a watershed moment today. 

Speaking to reporters this morning, she said the new national database will document issues of bullying “so we can see what is happening in our schools in terms of bullying”.

Currently, she said issues of bullying are raised with the board of management within a school. The inspectorate will look now at how bullying issues are being dealt with and managed, with each school uploading their own information to the database.

Foley said this “proactive” measure will ensure the overall picture of how bullying is being handled nationally will be transparent.

All forms of bullying

The updated plan aims to address bullying, cyber bullying, racism, gender identity bullying and sexual harassment, among other areas, in schools.

The plan to ensure that student teachers and all school staff have the knowledge and skills to effectively prevent and address bullying, with the development of a recognition process, such as a Cineáltas flag, for schools who engage in measures to prevent and address bullying. 

Schools will be assessed on the key aspects of the anti-bullying procedures, which will include assessing whether the school has appropriate initiatives in place to promote a positive and inclusive school culture.

The Inspectorate will follow up with schools where issues of non­compliance arise until the school becomes compliant. 

The new pilot programme of counselling supports for primary schools also forms part of the new measures, as well as the establishment of a student support team model in larger primary schools. 

The progression of the Charter Bill on bullying, which is already in place in schools, and the development of Charter Guidelines, will strengthen the voice and participation of children and young people and their parents in the development and implementation of school policies, states the new plan.

Bullying survey

A recent Government study found that 17% of 9-­17 year olds reported that they had experienced some form of bullying, either online or offline, in the past year.

The highest number of reports came from 13–14 year olds, 22% of whom reported having been bullied in the past year.

Furthermore, 11% of all children said that they had experienced cyberbullying in the past 12 months with 13–14 year olds reporting the highest incidence rates.  

The action plan, called Cineáltas, has been developed by the Department of Education in collaboration with a steering committee led by Dr Noel Purdy of Stranmillis University College in Belfast.

The minister said that the “lived experiences” were contained in the 50 presentations that were made to the committee, with over 4,600 responses received through the public consultation questionnaire.

Around 41 school staff and board of management members participated in school focus groups and 170 children and young people from diverse backgrounds were consulted including children with special educational needs, Traveller and Roma children, children from Ukraine and refugees. 

While Foley said schools are vibrant, innovative and most importantly inclusive places of learning, for some children and young people bullying is an unacceptable reality.

“Cineáltas is practical, inclusive and contains a broad range of actions which help us all to work together towards a diverse, inclusive Irish society free from bullying in all its forms and where individual difference is valued and celebrated.

“Our vision is to provide schools with the tools necessary to target and tackle cyber bullying, racism, gender identity bullying or sexual harassment, among other areas.

The implementation of the actions in this Action Plan will greatly enhance the work that we already do to ensure that all the children and young people who attend our schools are kept safe from harm and that the wellbeing of our children and young people is at the forefront of everything that we do,” she said.


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