Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (102, 103)

David Stanton

Question:

103 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding his Department is making available to establish and support anti-bullying programmes in primary and second level schools in the State; his further plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8129/04]

View answer

David Stanton

Question:

104 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the action he intends to take to assist former students of day schools here who suffered from bullying while attending school; if he has any indication of the number of students involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8130/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 104 together. I am 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 regard to anti-bullying behaviour is a central part of the social, personal and health education, SPHE, curriculum.

At post-primary level, the implementation of the SPHE curriculum at junior cycle has been supported by the post primary SPHE Support service since September 2000. The support service is being jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Health and Children, together with the health boards. To date the support service has received funding in excess of €1.5 million. An SPHE syllabus for use at senior cycle level is being prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

At primary level, the issue of bullying is addressed in the SPHE curriculum in the strand "Myself and Others" from infant classes onwards. The primary curriculum support programme, PCSP, has organised, on a phased basis, in-career development programmes for all teachers in SPHE and since 2002 the PCSP estimates that it has allocated approximately €2.7 million to this work.

My Department's in-career development unit, ICDU, has also provided support for the cool school anti-bullying programme for second level schools in the North Eastern Health Board region. This programme involves teacher training, curriculum development, a support service for schools, group therapy for persistent victims and interventions with persistent bullies. To date, ICDU has provided funding of €76,200 in support of this programme and has committed further financial support of €25,400 in respect of the 2004/05 academic year.

Individual school management authorities are responsible for implementing effective policies to counter bullying in schools. In 1993 my Department issued guidelines on countering bullying behaviour to all primary and post-primary schools. 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. A further circular in 1994 reminded school authorities of their responsibility in formulating a written code of behaviour and discipline, which should include specific measures to counter bullying behaviour.

The National Educational Psychological Service is also available as a support service to schools in respect of individual students who encounter difficulties. My Department has not been contacted by or received any representations from former students of day schools who suffered bullying while attending school. Accordingly, my Department has no plans to put in place assistance for former day students who may have experienced bullying while in school.