Bullying continues to impact on wellbeing of pupils, parents and professionals

Read the key points from our national bullying survey

As 2014 sees Bullying UK celebrate its 15th anniversary, a new national survey from the charity finds below that despite a myriad of initiatives, bullying continues to impact on the wellbeing of pupils, parents and professionals.

Whilst recent efforts have focused on the pernicious effects of open and anonymous ‘cyber-bullying’; confrontational and physical bullying remains a major issue. The survey found:

  • 93% of pupils reported that bullying occurred at school primarily during break, in classrooms and the playground
  • 81.4% of young people were bullied by more than one person. 62% of the children confided in their parents
  • 95% of parent respondents told BullyingUK that bullying took place in school, with 83.2% identified as name calling, 66% as physical bullying and 68.1% social bullying

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Nearly 92% of school staff feel lunchtime and bank staff should receive training on tackling bullying
  • 74.5% of young people felt their school’s response was unhelpful
  • 61% of parents stated their child was bullied over 8 times or more
  • Once reported 62% of pupils said the bullying didn’t cease.
  • 76.3% feel more teacher presence can help minimise bullying
  • 61.4% of staff feel it is difficult to keep on top of bullying within schools
  • 58% of children have taken time off school because of bullying, with a 1/4 missing more than a day off school and 10% penalised for taking the time off.
  • 41% of children said bullying going on for 2 years or more
  • 40% of teachers have been assaulted by pupils

Tackling The Problem?

Whilst 82% of education professional respondents stated they deliver lessons on bullying (mainly during PSHE lessons):

  • 46% of schools stated the police have been involved in escalated bullying incidents
  • 40% of teachers have been assaulted by pupils
  • Encouragingly 42% of teachers feel fairly confident their school addresses bullying whereas 16% do not feel confident at all.
  • 34% of parent respondents stated their children had additional needs and 41% of parents felt their child struggled to spot the signs of bullying
  • 39.5% of schools say bullying is never a key agenda item on staff training days
  • 25% of education staff stated no support is provided for pupils bullied out of school or online
  • 24% of schools say their policy is not updated regularly and 5% of education staff stated they believed their school did not have an anti-bullying policy

Mediation & Resolution

Whilst 30% of teachers felt restorative justice was the most effective anti-bullying method. Parent respondents reported that:

  • 30% of parents had forced to change schools because of bullying with 47.1% having considered home schooling.
  • 54% of parents felt the bullying meted out warranted permanent exclusion should be the consequence and 46% felt it should be criminal charges.

Tell the teacher?

The general consensus may be to encourage bullied pupils to inform their teacher, however BullyingUK found that:

  • 85% of parents said once the school was involved the bullying still continued.
  • 35% of parents felt the school did not take the bullying seriously.

There remains a reluctance also amongst some pupils to inform the school or their teachers. Pupil respondents told us:

"Just because you tell a teacher doesn’t mean they sort the problems out, yes the bully may get into trouble or excluded, but it doesn’t mean they won’t bully again. i told the head teacher too so they took me seriously…"

"I kept coming home with injuries and bruises, not wanting to go to school, my parents were really distressed I was only aged 5-7 at the time so they complained and spoke with teachers on behalf - mum and dad got me a (helpline) advisor… which really helped :)"

Some of the emotions derived from bullying included depression, anger and low self-esteem.  One student stated:

"Bullying is the bane of my existence, and even to this day, although it doesn't go on constantly, people still make comments, and inside, I still feel a constant sadness that no cartoon, or treat, or experience will ever replace. I don't even speak about it because I know if I did, I would become involved in cutting myself and alcoholism, and definitely into tears."

Whilst the focus is rightly centred on protecting pupils within the school environment. One respondent stressed the importance of addressing student-on-teacher bullying. They said:

"Student to teacher bullying is often never covered or mentioned as part of school bullying policies. I believe this is an area that has to be seriously looked into. Teachers are often abused by students with name calling, appearance, inappropriate comments like MILF and cougar. Men who may have a certain look as a ‘Paedo’ etc. I have seen these comments in places like ratemyteacher and facebook pages. Homosexual derogatory comments for perceived sexuality and orientation of teachers, especially stereotypes of PE teachers and female teachers with short hair. The list is endless. I do not understand how teachers are not protected by anti-bullying policies for student on teacher abuse."

A perceived lack of discipline?

Teachers who responded flagged up issues regarding discipline, with respondents stating:

"The sad thing is that we all know this goes on, we have no powers as teachers, but as a human being I try to instil in my students the effects bullying has had on people including myself as a youngster. There does not seem to be any consequences for their actions so they continue to bully. They get away with far more outside the classroom and bullying to them is just all in a 'Normal day' for them."

"Schools are becoming under so much pressure due to financial restraints and reduced staff. This is leading to an increase in behavioural management issues and bullying is on the increase. The pastoral unit has seen a massive decrease in staff so an important issue like bullying is more often than not being put on the back burner."

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive says: 

“Young people may live their lives vicariously through the virtual world, but our survey highlights that ‘real-world’ bullying continues to occur during lunch and break times, to and from school and in corridors. 35% of teaching and school staff told us that they have seen bullying on multiple occasions every month. We must also however address classroom discipline and ensure education professionals are protected from physical, verbal or online abuse. It’s vital that parents and teachers regularly engage with one another to ensure children in their care can learn in a safe and supportive environment.”

Parents or education professionals concerned about bullying can call Family Lives’ free 24 hour helpline on 0808 800 2222 or visit www.bullying.co.uk for confidential and non-judgemental support.

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Notes to editors:

For media enquiries, contact Family Lives’ Press Office on press@familylives.org.uk

2067 responded to Bullying UK’s online survey which comprised:. 1188 Children and young people, 649 Parents and carers, 230 Teachers and schools

Additional Survey Data:

Children and Young People 

  • 70.5% of children who responded to the national survey were female
  • 48.5% said that the bullies didn’t receive no sanctions or consequences.
  • Nearly 30% say they do not feel safe at school.
  • 42.5% of children said they had to take time off from school because of the bullying.
  • 44% said they were bullied on their way to or from school.
  • When reporting the bullying to a social network, only 8.8% said the social network took action.
  • 56.4% have said they have seen others being bullied online and nearly 42% of feel unsafe online.

Survey for parent and carers

  • 34% of the children had a disability or additional needs and 40.7% felt it was hard for their child to spot the signs of bullying
  • 47.3% of bullying was about appearance whereas 20.5% was about a disability.
  • Only 55% of children were able to confide in their parents straightaway.
  • 10% of children had a weapon used against them with bruising being the main injury.
  • The main effects of bullying were lower self-esteem, loss of confidence, friendships suffered, scared to go out, school work, emotional health and well-being and some felt suicidal.
  • 31% parents said their child has been bullied online with 70% of it being on Facebook and some on X-Box Live.
  • 30% of parents reported the bullying online and 50% of the social networks did not even respond.