Anti-bullying strategy for schools to place new focus on gender identity

Database will report on the scale of bullying taking place in schools for the first time

A new anti-bullying strategy to be followed by all schools will include a focus on tackling harassment on gender identity grounds for the first time.

In addition, it will provide for the establishment of national database which will shine a light on the extent of bullying taking place in schools.

Minister for Education Norma Foley is due to publish the new action plan on Thursday. It is dedicated to the prevention and addressing of bullying, cyber bullying, racism and sexual harassment, among other areas, in schools.

The action plan – known as “Cineáltas” or kindness – builds on a previous blueprint published a decade ago and is based on months of consultation with children, parents, school staff, education partners and members of the public.


The voice of students will play a key role in the strategy with a new unit in the Department of Education tasked with ensuring young people have meaningful input into the development of ant-bullying policies.

Key action items in the plan:

  • Ensuring student teachers and all school staff have the knowledge and skills to effectively prevent and address bullying.
  • A Cineáltas flag, or other form of public recognition, for schools who engage in measures to prevent and address bullying.
  • Piloting a programme of counselling supports for primary schools.
  • Developing guidance for the establishment of a student support team model in larger primary schools.
  • The progression of a legislation in the form of a new school charter bill aimed at strengthening the voice and participation of children, young people and their parents in the development and implementation of school policies.

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

Ms Foley said blueprint will greatly enhance the work that schools already do to ensure that all the children and young people are kept safe from harm and that the wellbeing of children and young people is at the forefront of thinking.

“Our schools are vibrant, innovative and most importantly inclusive places of learning, but for some children and young people bullying is an unacceptable reality,” she said.

“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.”

In a report on school bullying last year, the Oireachtas education committee said that bullying was “widespread in every urban and rural school”, and that cyberbullying had increased significantly as an unintended consequence of technological advances.

A 2019 survey of 19,000 young people by Jigsaw, a youth mental health organisation, and UCD found that 39 per cent of those in secondary school had experienced bullying.

The Oireachtas committee report urged the department to “urgently update” its action plan in line with current policies on child protection, wellbeing, relationships and sexuality education.

The new plan takes into account the work undertaken in recent years to ensure schools are safe and happy places for all our children and young people.

The plan’s consultation phase attracted more than 4,600 responses to a public questionnaire and focus groups including more than 40 school staff and 170 children and young people, including children with special educational needs, Traveller and Roma children, children from Ukraine and refugees.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent