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BBC NI's Education Correspondent Maggie Taggart
36% of pupils say they have been bullied at school within the past 12 months
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Monday, 17 April, 2000, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
NI bullying study follows suicide

More than a third of pupils are bullied, it is claimed
Northern Ireland Education minister George Howarth has announced a major study into the causes of school bullying in the province.

It follows the suicide earlier this month of north Belfast teenager Denise Baillie, 14, from the Highfield estate in north Belfast.

She took her own life after being bullied.

Mr Howarth said the University of Ulster study would be important in helping schools overcome the problem of bullying.

In 120 Northern Ireland primary and post primary schools, nine and ten-year-olds, and 12 and 13- year-olds will be asked to fill out questionnaires about whether they have been bullied or have bullied others.

The research will begin immediately and will be co-ordinated by the University of Ulster at a cost of 62,000.

Staff in the schools will also be asked to describe their experiences in relation to bullying.

The Northern Ireland survey follows research in England and Wales carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

The results were highlighted at a major teachers' conference organised by the ATL in Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

According to their survey, more than a third of school pupils had been bullied in the last year.

The poll of more than 2,600 children at middle and secondary schools also found that one in four had been threatened with violence in school.

Peter Smith
Peter Smith: No child should be bullied

The ATL said they were very concerned about disruption and violence in schools.

The ATL's general secretary Peter Smith said that schools attempted to provide young people with a safe environment to learn.

He added: "No matter how much a school tries to change its culture, bullying has a tendency to rear its ugly head.

"It seems that youngsters are now increasingly becoming victims of violence.

"These findings are shocking. If young people are worried about their personal safety while at school, this begs the question how they are going to feel once they are in the big wide world."

He said the parents of bullies needed to take more responsibility.

"Parents of children who bully may say, 'Oh well, boys will be boys' or 'Girls will be girls', but that isn't good enough.

"No child ought to stay away from school for fear of being bullied and as many as one in 11 do."

Call for community programme

On Sunday, it was revealed that Denise Baille's family knew she was being bullied but she "led us to believe that she was coping better with it".

"We had no idea she was in such despair. I don't know how we're going to cope," said her sister Sarah Jane.

Her family have now called on the government to set up a community programme to tackle bullying.

A special phoneline is set up to deal with bullying calls

Meanwhile the children's charity Childline has set up a new free helpline on which victims of bullying can contact them. The director of children's charity Childline, Delia van der Lenden, said the organisation dealt with several hundred calls a year about bullying.

She said children often called in "deep distress, feeling they have no room to turn, feeling they cannot talk about it and feeling that if they do talk about it that it might get worse".

She added: "This is why we feel that the Childline confidential helpline service provides an outlet for young people who are just too scared to talk to anyone else about bullying."

The Childline number is 0800 1111.

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See also:

16 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Girl's death prompts bullying plea
21 Jan 00 | Education
School for bullying victims
29 Mar 00 | Education
Conference to tackle bullying
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