Written Answers. - Bullying in Schools.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

27 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a recent claim made by a person (details supplied) that about 15% of pupils are subject to regular bullying by fellow pupils, which in extreme cases can lead to suicide; the steps being taken to combat bullying in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21757/02]

Tom Hayes

Question:

63 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will consider making it mandatory for all schools to have anti-bullying policies in place with inputs from parents, teachers and pupils. [21733/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 63 together.

I am very aware of the issue of bullying in schools and my Department has moved to tackle the issue on a number of fronts. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is a central part of the social, personal and health education curriculum.

The social, personal and health education programme is part of the curriculum in every primary school at present and by September 2003 will be a mandatory component of the junior cycle in all second level schools. The content of the programme reflects current best practice in the area of educating children on bullying.
As part of school development planning, schools are advised to have stated policies and to develop plans on discipline, health and safety and countering bullying behaviour. Parental involvement in the planning process is encouraged. Through their representation on the board of management and through parents associations parents can readily be consulted in the clarification and development of these policies and plans.
Guidelines were put in place in 1994 as an aid to schools in devising their individual anti-bullying strategies. The purpose of the guidelines was to assist schools in devising school based measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness of the problem among school management authorities, staff, pupils and parents.
The National Educational Psychological Service is also available as a support service to schools in relation to individual students who encounter difficulties.