Purpose of the project:
project developed in partnership with the Anti- Bullying Centre in Trinity
College Dublin, sought to provide participants in five schools with the
opportunity to conduct research, develop word-processing skills, use the
internet to access information, communicate via e-mail, promote the use of
IT and contribute to the Council of Europe’s data bank on the issue of
The project investigated the level of bullying that occurred
in 5 schools and attempted to identify the effects of bullying on children
as perceived by the children themselves. The study also sought to examine
children’s preferred strategies for coping with the problem.
The project involved a
survey approach, in which children in one of the participating schools
compiled a questionnaire with thirty questions which they themselves
regarded as the most important in relation to the issue of bullying at
school. The questions were typed by third and fourth class pupils and
questionnaires were dispatched to participant schools along with copies of
“Bullying at schools”, “Action against bullying”, and “Bullying -the
hidden fear”. The Internet was used to access further information. Schools
were guaranteed complete confidentiality and anonymity regarding the
information they supplied.
total of one hundred and forty three pupils from five schools were chosen
for the sample. Of these seventy two were girls and seventy one were boys.
pupils were in third, fourth, fifth and sixth class. All of the
children were from multi-class groups.
The questionnaire consisted of thirty
questions composed by pupils, the first two of which concerned the pupil’s
gender and class. Other questions sought to find out:-
1. The incidence of bullying in the five schools.
location of bullying incidents.
3. The comparative ages of bullies and
4. Sources of support for victims.
5. Perceived effects on
6. If pupils had missed school as a result of
7. If changing schools would solve the problem.
Sanctions advocated by pupils.
9. Descriptions of victims.
Descriptions of pupils who were not bullied.
reinforcements for children who do not bully others.
forwarded to schools along with a letter guaranteeing confidentiality.
Supportive research and a definition and examples of bullying were also
The questionnaires were administered by teachers in each of
the participating schools.
Pupils were guaranteed confidentiality and
Following the completion of questionnaires the data was
assessed by pupils of one of the participating schools, under the guidance
of a teacher. Pupils then used Microsoft Excel to record their findings in
the form of charts and used Microsoft Word to report on the project.
Of the total
sample of 143 children, 33 said they had been bullied at school that term,
while 92 were not bullied. Twenty-five pupils reported that they had been
bullied outside of school and 109 were not bullied outside of school. Not
all of the 143 children completed the questions relating to the incidence
(B) The location of bullying
Ninety-five pupils felt that bullying is most
likely to occur at school, whereas 39 thought that bullying was more
likely to occur outside school .Of the total sample of pupils 31 claimed
they had been bullied at sport activities and 51 said they had not been
(C) The comparative ages of bullies and
When asked about the comparative ages of bullies
and victims 32, pupils said they were older, 6 said they were younger, 23
were of the opinion that bullies and victims were of the same age.
(D) Sources of support for victims
total sample of 143 pupils, 115 pupils indicated that they would tell
their parents if they were been bullied. One hundred and thirty two were
confident that their parents would take action if they were been bullied
and one hundred twenty six thought that their teachers would do so. Only
twenty seven children felt that the bully’s parents would take action.
(E) Perceived effects on attendance and
Thirteen children alleged that they had
missed school because of bullying, while one hundred and twenty three had
not. Thirty eight children felt that bullying affects progress at school
and seventy seven felt it had no effect.
changing school would solve the problem.
felt that changing school would solve the problem of bullying, whereas
fifty nine thought it would not make a difference. More than one third of
the total sample of one hundred and forty three pupils had no opinion.
(G) Sanctions advocated by pupils
nine respondents to the survey thought that bullies should be given an
unspecified punishment. Extra homework was the preferred option for seven
children, while nine pupils preferred that the incidents of bullying be
reported to parents. Detention was regarded as a suitable sanction by
eight pupils and a further six pupils felt that bullying warranted
(H) Descriptions of
The five most popular words to describe
victims were “sad” (69), “scared” (39), and “lonely” 25, “depressed” (18),
and “frightened” 17.
(I) Descriptions of pupils who were
Ninety two pupils described children who did
not bully as “kind” and eighty two felt they were “happy”. Other
descriptions included “nice” (30), “friendly” (18), and “good” (16).
(J) Positive reinforcements for children who do not
Twenty two pupils listed “money” as an
appropriate reward for good behavior and twelve felt that “gifts” were
suitable. Eighteen preferred sweets and nineteen sought praise from
adults. No homework was the preferred option for four
As more than one quarter
of the children surveyed claimed to be bullied in school and one sixth
felt they were bullied outside school, bullying impact would appear to be
a problem for some children in the five schools and is a source likely to
produce negative attitudes in relation to schooling. The findings in this
study would suggest that much of the bullying behaviour is engaged in by a
few or more bullies, rather than individual bullies.
tackling the issue, it is perhaps surprising that more than 46% of pupils
were of the opinion that bullying stops if it is ignored, while 39%(56)
felt it would not stop. However, it should be noted that more than 70 %(
102) of the pupils agreed that the bully and victim should not be left to
deal with the problem and sort it out themselves.
Friends were seen as
a source of support by most children (131). Children displayed a great
deal of confidence in their parents and teachers with125 willing to report
bullying to parents and115willing to report to teachers. Only 6 were
unwilling to inform their parents and 11 would not tell teachers. A
possible explanation for the high level of reporting of incidents of
bullying to teachers is the content of the “Stay Safe” programme which
advocates the reporting of bullying incidents to adults. The “Stay Safe”
lessons were viewed as helpful in developing skills to deal with bullying
by 90 children but 27% of pupils thought they were inadequate.
violent T.V. programmes was regarded by 60% of children (86) as being a
contributory factor to bullying. As bullying is a learned behaviour, this
raises serious issues for programme makers and adults who can influence
the type of programmes to which children have access.
One of the
interesting aspects of the study was the pupils’ opinion on rewarding
positive behaviour.No homework was regarded as a less acceptable reward
than praise from adults ,with 4 children opting for “no homework” and 19
preferring praise from adults.
The role of adults in affirming positive
behaviour is therefore of immense importance.
Sweets were favoured by
18 children; while the most popular reward was money (22).A further 12
opted for” gifts”.
Perhaps the geographical location in which the
study was conducted was a factor in the finding that only 2 children from
the sample of 143 considered racism to be the worst form of bullying. It
is most likely that there is little, if any, racial problems in the 5
schools involved in the study. Physical bullying was seen as the worst
form of bullying by more than 55% of pupils (79) and name calling was a
concern for 36 pupils.
Emotional bullying such as hurting other
children’s feelings and engaging in threatening behaviour were listed as
the worst form of bullying by 10 children and a similar number
considered name calling to be the greatest cause of
This study is of significance in that it afforded
children the opportunity to conduct research, avail of I.T., make contact
with other schools and examine the issue of bullying among schoolchildren
from a child’s perspective using questionnaires devised by the children
With bullying regarded as a problem, to a greater or lesser
extent, in many schools, it is essential that best practice be in place to
tackle bullying and provide support for the victim. It is essential, in
view of the long-term effects of bullying that the support of qualified
psychologists be made available to victims of school –bullying to prevent
difficulties in adulthood. The belief that bullying is part of the
growing-up process is therefore one that must be challenged. It is also
vital that the issue of bullying is viewed as a wider community problem
and not simply as a problem that is confined to schools and is left to
schools to resolve in isolation.
For teachers, it is essential that
incidents of bullying are dealt with caringly and without delay, adopting
a composed unbiased approach that does not exacerbate the
The “Stay Safe” programme, while useful as a tool in
developing skills to combat bullying, should not be regarded as a cure-all
to solve the problem. Practice in conflict resolution could also help
equip pupils with life skills that could benefit them in the
For the purpose of obtaining an independent assessment of
the actual situation in relation to bullying,the Anti-Bullying Centre in
Trinity College,Dublin administered a further set of questionnaires in one
of the participating schools.These questionnaires were compiled by
Professor Dan Olweus in the University of