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Schools told to get tough on the bullies

SCHOOLS must formally record all incidents of bullying in a new measure designed to tackle the problem. The initiative will allow patterns of bullying to be tracked and schools will be obliged to react under the first shake-up of bullying guidelines in 20 years.



The Department of Education will provide the country's 4,000 primary and post-primary schools with a new report template, where they will be required to document any episodes of bullying and inform the board of management.

A similar system has already proved an effective deterrent in Sweden, where bullying was reduced by 30pc in schools where it was used, especially among boys.

Although some Irish schools may have a policy of recording bullying incidents, any such arrangements are ad-hoc.

And up until now, there has been no formal requirement to do so.

Pressure for clearer guidelines on how to tackle the problem has been mounting amid the rapidly changing face of bullying.

Schoolyard and classroom taunts have been exacerbated by sinister online harassment, homophobia and racism.



Plan

Now Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has responded to the growing calls for action, with an Action Plan for Bullying to be unveiled later this week.

The bullying report template is one of the key recommendations in the new Action Plan, which has a €500,000 budget this year.

It is the first time in two decades that the department has updated its guidelines on countering bullying in schools, and is much needed to reflect the realities of modern day life.

Schools will be asked to analyse data to identify trends or patterns in the types of bullying that take place.

There will also be a single national anti-bullying website to provide information for parents, siblings, and school staff on types and methods of bullying and how to deal with bullying behaviour.

It is hoped that putting the new guidelines in place will offer a framework for teachers so they know exactly how to record and react to complaints of bullying.

It will also help to persuade victims of bullying that there are mechanisms in place to combat the problem, if they choose to report it.

jlast@herald.ie