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Bullying in Schools – Establishment of Anti Bullying Working Group and Action Plan

The Department of Education recently launched an action plan in January 2013 against cyber bullying in schools which has unfortunately become an epidemic especially with the ever-growing popularity of social media. Minister Ruari Quinn commissioned the report and arranged for the establishment of an Anti Bullying Working Group who were tasked with developing a plan to identify the priority actions that can encourage schools to develop anti bullying policies and in particular strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students. The working group considered 68 submissions and consulted with government departments and agencies, non governmental organisations, academics and researchers, colleagues from the UK and individuals who had direct experience of bullying.A full copy of the Report of the Anti Bullying Working Group to the Minister for Education and Skills in January 2013 is available for download here. The report looks at the following areas:

  • What is bullying?
  • Impact of bullying
  • What do children and young people say about bullying?
  • What are schools already required to do?
  • Do we need more legislation?
  • Responses to bullying in schools
  • Action plan on Bullying including recommendations for further consideration

At the launch of the publication of the Government’s Action Plan on Bullying on January 29th 2013, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn noted that for some children and young people, “bullying is a scourge that can violate the nurturing environments and in the process obliterate their happiness” (source Irish Times 29th January 2013)Action Plan and Recommendations for Further Consideration:Amongst the proposed 12 action points arising from the report including timescales and responsibility/leads are:

  1. New National Anti-Bullying Procedures for Schools
  2. Review of Teacher Education Support Service Provision
  3. Coordinated training and resource development for boards of management and parents
  4. School inspection
  5. Thematic Evaluation of Bullying in Schools
  6. School Self Evaluation
  7. New national anti-bullying website
  8. Stand Up Awareness Week against Homophobic Bullying
  9. Support a media campaign focused on cyber bullying and specifically targeted at young people
  10. Research on effective supports for children with special educational needs
  11. Research on prevalence and impact of bullying linked to social media on the mental health and suicidal behaviour among young people
  12. Awareness raising measures, including guidelines for policy makers and DES agencies and services which work in the schools sector on all types and forms of bullying

Recommendations for Further Consideration include

  1. Establishment of an Anti Bullying Implementation Group
  2. Protocols between state agencies providing services to schools
  3. Initial Teacher Education
  4. Curriculum
  5. Stereotyping
  6. Development of a New National Framework for Anti Bullying
  7. Research into investigative procedures in other jurisdictions and development of proposals for change to the Irish system if real value can be added
  8. Research, monitoring and evaluation
  9. Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children
  10. Code of Conduct for the Media
  11. Youth Work
  12. Sporting organisations
  13. Partnership with Industry

It is reported that a budget of €500,000 has been ring-fenced to implement the plan this year, which will include funding for the National Suicide Prevention Office to research the prevalence and impact of cyber-bullying on young people’s mental health.The Report also sets out a number of immediate steps which a school can undertake to prevent workplace bullying including explicitly teaching students about the appropriate use of social media. It also recommends positively encouraging students to comply with the School rules on mobile phone and internet use and follow-up with those students who ignore the rules.The timeframes proposed for the various action points are set to be agreed in 2013 with some points actioned very quickly thereafter. We will keep you updated of developments.

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