Legislation and Guidance for Schools
Bullying, in whatever form and for whatever reason, has no place in schools. The Department has taken pro-active steps to tackle bullying through the development and publication of guidance.
The Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, requires all grant-aided schools to include within their discipline policy, an anti-bullying policy which includes measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. The effectiveness of these measures is monitored through the regular cycle of school inspections of pastoral care arrangements.
Guidance for schools in developing effective anti-bullying policies is included in the Department's publication 'Pastoral Care in Schools - Promoting Positive Behaviour'.
The Department provides funding to assist Childline NI to continue to provide their helpline for children and young people who wish to talk to someone about any concerns or worries they may have, including fears about bullying. The helpline is open 24/7 and is free of charge - Tel: 0800 1111
Counselling Service in Schools
The Independent Counselling Service for Schools (ICSS) is available in all grant aided post-primary schools allowing pupils to speak to a trained counsellor about their concerns or fears around bullying. Pupils can self refer or be referred by the school or their parents/carers.
In October 2011 the Department published a research report on The Nature and Extent of Pupil Bullying in Schools in the North of Ireland. The findings show little change in the level of bullying behaviour reported by pupils compared to earlier studies published in 2002 and 2007.
Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF)
The Department funds and is a member of the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) which is hosted by the National Children's Bureau (NCB).
NCB employs a Regional Anti-Bullying Coorinator, Lee Kane, to guide and progress the implementation of the 3 year anti-bullying strategy, including making arrangements to promote an annual Anti-Bullying Week.
The Forum is currently chaired by a member of the voluntary sector (Parenting NI) and a member from the Education and Library Boards (statutory sector) holds the Vice-chair.
The Forum has a membership of over 20 statutory and voluntary organisations all acting together to identify and champion future anti-bullying priorities. The NIABF has a range of different Task Groups which focus on anti-bullying themes and put into action work that is required to further develop the anti-bullying strategy. These operational groups are made up of Forum members and additional organisations with relevant expertise (linked to the group's theme).
Current Task Groups include:
- Anti-Bullying Week - planning NIABF activities for Anti-Bullying Week which takes place in November each year. Membership of this group changes according to the theme that year’s Anti-Bullying Week is aiming to raise awareness of.
- Disablist Bullying - developing NIABF information and updates regarding bullying related to perceived or actual disability.
- Homophobic Bullying - developing NIABF information and updates regarding bullying related to perceived or actual sexual orientation.
- Transphobic Bullying - developing NIABF information and updates regarding bullying realted to transgender issues.
- Sectarian Bullying - developing NIABF information and updates regarding bullying related to sectarian divisions.
- Early Years - developing NIABF information and updates regarding bullying related among younger children.
NIABF also hosts an Inter-Board Anti-Bullying Group. This group consists of the five Education and Library Boards (ELBs) and NIABF, and its purpose is to promote shared anti-bullying policy and practice through collaborative working within and across the five ELBs. Each Board has a designated officer who works with schools to tackle bullying through assisting in the development of whole school policies and supporting individual pupils who have been victims of bullying.
Further information - Education Support website.
NIABF is represented on the British and Irish Anti-Bullying Forum that comprises one statutory and one voluntary representative each from England, Scotland, Wales, and from both jurisdictions in Ireland.
There are many resources and signposts to help on the NIABF website, and these leaflets for parents and carers are just a sample of the information available. Downloadable versions are available by clicking on the links below.