New Action Plan on Bullying, launched in Dublin today (January 29) by Ministers Ruairí Quinn and Frances Fitzgerald, is welcomed by unions.
The Action Plan follows the Anti-Bullying Forum jointly held in May 2012 by Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald. As part of that Forum Minister Quinn sought submissions from interested parties and established a working group to prepare an action plan on preventing and tackling bullying in schools.
Today’s report from the Anti-Bullying Working Group makes it clear that preventing and tackling bullying requires support from parents and wider society and is not a problem schools can solve alone.
The Plan sets out twelve actions to help prevent and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools, which include the following:
- Support a media campaign focused on cyber bullying specifically targeted at young people as part of Safer Internet Day 2013;
- Establish a new national anti-bullying website;
- Begin development immediately of new national anti-bullying procedures for all schools. These will include an anti-bullying policy template and a template for recording incidents of bullying in schools. These should be in place by the start of the next school year;
- Devise a co-ordinated plan of training for parents and for school boards of management;
- Provide Department of Education and Skills support for the Stand Up! Awareness Week Against Homophobic Bullying organised by BeLonG To Youth Services;
- Review current Teacher Education Support Service provision to identify what training and Continuous Professional Development teachers may need to help them effectively tackle bullying;
As well as implementing the Action Plan, Minister Quinn announced that the Department of Education & Skills will be supporting a revision of the Stay Safe Programme for primary schools. The revised programme will address new forms of risk, including cyber bullying, and incorporate new research and best practice in the area of safeguarding children as well as changes and developments in the educational context in terms of policies, provision and curriculum.
At the launch of the Action Plan, Minister Quinn said he broadly accepted the proposed actions in the report and has requested his officials to ensure that work on implementation begins immediately in consultation with teachers, parents and management bodies at first and second-level.
He has ring-fenced €500,000 to support the implementation of the Action Plan on Bullying in 2013.
ASTI General Secretary Pat King welcomed the report:
“The report published today… acknowledges the work that schools do in addressing bullying and in promoting learning environments which are inclusive and respectful to all. Actions which support schools in this work are welcome,” he said.
However, he also pointed out that the report was being launched in the context of severe education cutbacks.
“Typically it is teacher year heads who work to identify pupils at risk, act as a contact person between the school and the family, access specialist and support services if necessary, and implement the school’s code of behaviour.”
In many schools these posts had been virtually wiped out, Mr King said.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan also welcomed the report. She said that not all bullying happens in schools but most people look to schools to resolve it. Primary schools have shown they can be part of the solution, she said, but active involvement by others is also needed.
“This report sets out the need for others, particularly policy makers and parents, to be actively involved in tackling the problem. Recommendations in the report, if implemented and resourced, could improve the situation.”
The Irish Secondary Students’ Union (ISSU) added its voice in welcoming the report. The union has been strongly involved in developing the Action Plan and Equality Officer Mark Caffrey, member of the Anti-Bullying Working Group, is looking forward to its full implementation.
“Bullying is something which we know affects our students hugely – around one quarter of students are likely to have experienced some form of bullying in the past couple of months, and I’m delighted that an action plan to tackle this head on has been launched today. Bullying is a serious problem, so it needs to be taken seriously,” Mark said.
“Schools need to be given the necessary supports in order to manage and prevent bullying in all forms, and we need to make sure that parents are aware of the role they can play in both preventing bullying, and intervening in an appropriate way where it is occurring.
“Tackling homophobic bullying and cyber bullying are key focuses of this action plan, and we look forward to working with other partners to see it implemented”.
ISSU President, Dylan Grace commented on the thoroughness of the Action Plan on Bullying in its approach and recommendations.
“I am very encouraged by the commitment shown by the Department of Education and Skills and our other education partners in tackling the scourge of bullying in our schools,” Dylan said.
The Plan is available to download at www.education.ie