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Youth website SpunOut.ie welcomes today's release of the 'Action Plan on Bullying' by the Minister for Education & Skills Ruairi Quinn.
The epidemic of bullying in schools has been ignored by successive Governments over the past 20 years so we congratulate Minister Quinn on making this first step to tackle the problem.
Bullying affects a student's ability to learn effectively and has the potential to have a severe impact on a young person's mental health so it is vital the behaviour is stamped out in schools. It will not be easy and it will require a whole-school and community approach.
A limited budget of €500,000 has been set aside to tackle the problem in 2013, this needs to be dramatically increased in 2014 if we are to fully and properly implement the goals set out in this action plan.
The action plan does not however outline any plans for a standard anti-bullying education programme for all students, but we welcome the establishment of an implementation group by the Minister and this should be their first order of business.
According to the action plan; new guidelines will be issued later this year which will require each school to monitor the incidence of bullying in their institution and report frequently on bullying trends to the school's board of management, a log of which can be requested by the Department of Education & Skills at any time.
"It is completely unacceptable that all schools have not been required to keep records of incidents up until now. This will be required from September 2013 onwards but we would hope schools will not wait until then and start being proactive in assessing the levels of bullying behaviour in their own institutions now with a view to making interventions in the coming academic year." says Ian Power of youth website SpunOut.ie
Leadership and Evaluation
Under the new action plan, school inspectors will now have to evaluate and assess each school's approach to addressing bullying behaviour in their institution.
"The fact that schools will now be judged on the work they are doing to minimise bullying is a huge step forward by the Minister and one which has been proven to be effective in the UK under their school watchdog 'Ofsted'. This will put pressure on school principals to ensure their institution is being proactive and involving students in anti-bullying iniatives which is extremely important if we are to be successful in reducing the prevalence of bullying" says Ian Power.
The action plan also reveals training will be encouraged for members of school boards of management and a review will be undertaken by the department as to the gaps which need to be addressed in teacher training in the area.
"Proper training and resources are essential to give teachers the confidence to address and identify bullying in schools. The action plan review of teacher training needs to be completed urgently and a 'continious professional development' (CPD) plan put in place in time for the new academic year. Studies carried out in Donegal by Trinity's Anti-Bullying Centre show dramatic reductions in bullying after the creation of a professional network of teachers who were comprehensively trained in bullying prevention. Proven approaches like the Donegal Project evaluated by Prof. Mona O'Moore of TCD should not be left on a shelf to gather dust but should be rolled out nationally" says Ian Power of SpunOut.ie
Interim Key Recommendations
The official update to the 1993 anti-bullying guidelines will not be issued to schools until the summer, but the action plan details a number of actions schools can take in the interim such as:
For further information:
Communications Officer, SpunOut.ie