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A Broken System Change Needed

The bullying problem in schools

Bullying in schools is a serious and persistent problem with disadvantaged children most at risk

In every such case [of suicide due to bullying] school was cited as the main place of persecution

In 2015 the government claimed that their measures to tackle bullying were effective, with a press release entitled ‘Bullying in school plummets – New study reveals 30,000 fewer children bullied in last 10 years.’ Numerous other sources have described the situation in less positive terms.

A 2018 YouGov poll found that four in 10 students were seriously worried about returning for the new school year. The bullying they experience affects their grades and makes them not want to put their hands up in class. This would suggest the number being bullied currently might be closer to 4 million children. Dr Elizabeth Nassem, of Birmingham City University whose research focusses on the topic, said that worries over cyberbullying were a distraction. “What bothers them is being face to face, sat in a classroom with the same bully on a daily basis.”

A 2015 study by the Children’s Society found that 38% of the children surveyed had been physically attacked or hit by other children at school in the last month. Half a million 10 to 12-year-olds are physically bullied at school. On top of this many children, particularly girls, had experienced being excluded and left out. The study found that English children are amongst the unhappiest in the world, with bullying being flagged as a key issue.

12% of seven-year-olds with ‘special needs’ felt bullied ‘all the time’

Other research – carried out by organisations including Stonewall, Bullying UK and Ditch the Label – found that students who were LGBT, or who were not White British or who were poor were all at increased risk of being bullied. Transphobic, racist and xenophobic bullying were found to be particular issues in schools. Poor children were found to be twice as likely to be bullied regularly as children who were more affluent. Disabled children were also twice as likely to be bullied with research carried out by the London University’s Institute of Education finding that 12% of seven-year-olds with ‘special needs’ felt bullied ‘all the time’.
Research published by the YMCA found that over half of children of secondary school age have been bullied about their appearance – often weight and body shape. For 40% of children this is a regular occurrence, happening at least weekly. 80% of those bullied said it was happening at school, as opposed to online or elsewhere. For half of them the bullying had started by the age of ten. 10% of them said they had suicidal thoughts and 9% had self-harmed as a result.

The repercussions of bullying are long lasting and serious. One of the London University’s Institute of Education study authors, Stella Chatzitheochari, said: “We know that being bullied contributes to social inequalities later in life – people who were victims in childhood often grow up to have low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, and perform less well in the labour market than their peers”.

For some the consequences are even more dire. Charity BeatBullying published research stating that nearly half of suicides among 10 to 14-year-olds are due to bullying. They found that in every such case school was cited as the main place of persecution.


Read more

Half of children worried about returning from school holidays because of bullying, poll finds (Telegraph, 3 Sept 2018)

English children among the unhappiest in the world at school due to bullying (The Guardian, 19 Aug 2015)

Nearly 50 per cent of LGBT pupils bullied at school, report finds (The Telegraph, 10 July 2017)

The shocking reality of racist bullying in British schools (The Telegraph, 5 July 2016)

More than half of children in England and Wales bullied about appearance (The Guardian, 28 Feb 2018)

More than half of young people bullied about their looks (YMCA, 28 Feb 2018)

Research finds bullying link to child suicides (The Independent, 13 June 2010)

Disabled children ‘more likely to be bullied’ (BBC, 20 June 2014)

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