Minister urges school boards to redouble efforts to tackle bullying


SCHOOL BOARDS have been urged by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to redouble their efforts to deal with the problem of bullying.

“The scale of bullying in Ireland remains a matter of grave concern and is borne out by recent research,” she said.

More than 24 per cent of children aged between nine and 17 had reported being bullied, while other research showed one in four girls and one in six boys in Ireland had been involved in cyber-bullying, either as a victim or a bully or both.

Some 58 per cent of children surveyed reported the existence of homophobic bullying in schools, she added.

Ms Fitzgerald said she was committed to working with colleagues in Government to ensure that integrated policy responses to combat bullying was high on the agenda.

The Minister was replying to Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF), who said stronger measures were needed if there was not sufficient and worthwhile compliance with current regulations. “We need to make this absolutely central to our address of this very serious problem, recognising that youth mental health is a critically important issue, impinging not only on the wellbeing of young people in their young lives and throughout their lifetimes,” he said.

Some lives were “stunted, crippled even” by bullying. “We will never know, I believe, the real number of tragic loss of lives attributable to school bullying,” said Mr Ó Caoláin.

Ms Fitzgerald said that the Education Welfare Act of 2000 obliged all schools to have a code of behaviour. The National Education Welfare Board, which came under the remit of her department, had issued guidelines requiring each school to have policies to address bullying.

School boards of management must have policies to address bullying and harassment and recognise that teachers had a professional duty to care to address it.

Replying to Robert Troy (FF), the Minister said child protection services would be transferred from the Health Service Executive to a dedicated child and family support agency which would be fully operational next year.

“It will mean moving to a situation where child and family welfare will be the sole focus of a dedicated agency overseen by a single department for the first time,” she added. She said the report on how best to organise services for children had mapped out an executive agenda for the development of the services so the best could be done for children, parents and families.