Headteachers blame funding cuts as fewer children say schools deal with bullying effectively

Posted on: 2018-11-12 20:00:00

Funding cuts are blamed as number of children who say schools are handling bullying effectively drops, new government figures show

A higher proportion of youngsters report that all of the bullying they suffer has taken place at school.

Headteacher unions say government funding cuts have made it harder for schools to tackle the issue as there are fewer teachers, teaching assistants and pastoral staff to manage behaviour.

Analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales data, released by the government to coincide with Anti-Bullying Week, reveals that 72 per cent of pupils aged 10 to 15 felt that their school dealt with bullying “very well” or “quite well” in the last year – which is down from 78 per cent in 2014.

Meanwhile, the figures show that a higher proportion of pupils (63 per cent) said all of the bullying they experienced took place at school – which is up from 53 per cent in 2014.   

It comes after a report last week claimed that the equivalent of one child in every classroom is bullied face-to-face or online daily. 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The government’s cuts to school budgets are bad news for children who are being bullied.

“School staff are the first line of defence against bullying and they are the best way of making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place.”

Mr Whiteman noted that recent research carried out by the union showed that many schools have had to reduce the number or hours of classroom staff – like teaching assistants and pastoral staff – who he said “play a vital role in managing behaviour”. 

The report by the Department for Education also shows that white pupils were significantly more likely to say they have been bullied than non-white pupils (18 per cent compared with 13 per cent).

Meanwhile, pupils with a long-term illness or disability, as well as those living in the most deprived areas, were also more likely to experience bullying, the data revealed. 

Mr Whiteman added: “Of particular concern to us is the fact that pupils with additional needs and from lower incomes are the most likely to report that they are being bullied. But efforts to step in, so that every child has an equal chance to succeed, are being hampered by the cuts to budgets.

“Pupils thrive when they have a great environment to learn in. That environment is created by the skilled professionals employed by the school. 

“Many of these professionals are having their hours cut because school budgets are at breaking point, and there’s no sign of any extra money coming from the Treasury, which is a disaster for young people who are feeling bullied at school.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it was “concerning” that the percentage of young people who felt their school dealt with bullying well had fallen, and that more children who are experiencing bullying said it had all taken place at school. 

He said: “We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions, but it is notable that this trend has happened during a period in which schools have had to cut back on staffing levels because of huge funding pressures. 

“While schools continue to operate robust anti-bullying policies, they simply cannot provide the same level of individual support to students as was previously the case.”

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “In many ways now is a better time than ever to be young; but this generation also has to handle unprecedented things their parents never faced, like staying safe online and the threat of cyberbullying.

“Children who are victims of bullying today aren’t always able to escape it at the school gates - modern technology and social media means it often follows them home, becoming an ever-present risk.

“Bullying will always be a pressing issue for young people and their families – that’s why there will be no let-up in our efforts to tackle bullying and abuse in all its forms.

“I want every school and teacher to have the right support to promote healthy and positive discussions in the classroom that foster respect and understanding among pupils.”

Eleanor Busby, Education Correspondent
Source: Independent

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