What’s the Current State of Bullying in UK Schools?

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The 2013 annual report from Ditch the Label on school bullying in UK schools has recently been released with less than positive results. According to this non-profit anti-bullying UK charity, a substantial number of children and teens continue to suffer from bullying in primary and secondary schools. From personal surveys conducted by the charity, it appears young people are bullied for many reasons to include their looks, interests, religions, sexuality, financial status, disability and more.

Studies reveal that almost 70% of school age children and teens will have experienced bullying to some degree before they turn 18. That would mean seven out of every 10 students would at some point in their education be a victim of bullying. Bullying can be divided into a number of different categories to include physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, cyber-bullying and others. The research conducted by Ditch the Label involved over 2,000 students age 16 and up from UK colleges and schools across the country. Students were asked to answer questionnaires concerning their bullying experiences. The response was alarming:

  • 43% of the students who partook of the survey said they frequently experience “intense” verbal bullying at school
  • 16% suffer from physical abuse on a regular basis
  • 21% experience problems with cyber-bullying
  • 25% of bullying victims confessed they were having suicidal thoughts due to negative bullying experiences
  • 17% of the victims said they were frequently skipping classes

These figures reveal a great need for schools to become more involved in seeking ways to combat bullying activities at the primary, secondary and college school level. Although many bullying victims are requesting help from their teachers, survey questionnaires revealed that, on average, teachers responded to only half of the cases reported. Many students felt their teachers didn’t take bullying seriously and as a result, were quite indifferent about bullying charges. UK schools would do well to institute training programs for teachers to help increase their awareness of the problem so that teachers can become part of the solution.

Who Gets Bullied?

According to survey figures, three particular groups were targeted most by bullies: students with disabilities, those from religious and ethnic minorities and LGBT young people. When students were asked why they felt they were singled out by bullies, 60% of them claimed they were targeted due to their personal appearance. This reveals the high intolerance level of contemporary youth towards individuals who are different or who do not meet up to what they consider “acceptable standards.” The problem is that those “standards” have been grossly misrepresented by the media for years.

Today’s youth have very unrealistic views of physical beauty as portrayed by a person’s appearance. These views are largely promoted by media campaigns that extol images of what the world considers attractiveness. Those who fall short of these images are very likely to be ostracized or bullied. In an effort to change the erroneous mindsets of our youth, parents and schools must address these issues openly and honestly, exposing them for the deceptions that they are.

Through school programs, workshops, videos and inspirational talks, UK colleges and schools can promote the right mindsets and values for respecting individuality and personal appearance. Young people today need to learn tolerance and acceptance of their peers in all areas to include appearance, sexuality, race, color, disability, religion and financial status. By changing the perspective of our youth in these areas, schools stand a greater chance of reducing the problem of bullying within their respective environments. The problem with school bullying in England, Scotland and Wales has greatly escalated over the years; however, this trend can be reversed through the combined efforts of parents, schools and local communities to teach their youth the importance of moral values.

What Role do Parents Play in Curtailing Bullying?

Parental awareness of bullying in UK schools is the first step towards getting parents involved in seeking solutions to the problem. The issue of bullying will not go away on its own. As a parent, you should be concerned that your children and teens are safe from bullying in London schools and that they’re receiving an adequate education. Bullying can have a detrimental effect on a child or teen, making it impossible for him or her to benefit from their studies. Young people who suffer from physical or verbal bullying generally suffer from fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. Many lose interest in school altogether. In extreme cases, bullying victims have even been known to take their own lives.

As a parent, you should stay alert to signs of bullying in your child or teen, especially if your child falls into any one of the categories more likely to be bullied. Most victims are reluctant to talk about bullying or report bullying incidents. They may feel embarrassed about their situation or may be intimidated by the bullies themselves. By staying tuned in to your kids and teens and being involved in their lives, you’re more apt to notice when something is amiss in their lives. It’s always important to keep the lines of communication open so you can be the support your children need.

It’s also a good idea to establish a good relationship with your children’s teachers and school personnel. Most schools conduct parent/teacher conferences where parents can get to know their children’s teachers and find out more about how they are doing in school. By taking time for these programs, you can strengthen the ties between you and school personnel. In the event your children face difficulties with bullying in school, it will be easier to get the cooperation of teachers and school officials to resolve the problem.

Keep in mind that most UK schools are interested in their students’ physical and emotional welfare as well as meeting their students’ academic needs. Bullying in England is no more tolerated than bullying in Scotland or bullying in Wales. There may be challenges in keeping the situation under control; however, schools do have the desire to eradicate bullying and establish a safe and secure learning environment for their students. By working with teachers and school officials, you will get more effective results than trying to resolve bullying issues on your own.

Teaching Children Safety Strategies

Most schools have anti-bullying programs and strategies in place to handle incidents of bullying on school grounds. Parents and students should be aware of these strategies so they can work within the guidelines of their school’s program. When it comes to physical bullying, encouraging your kids to take aggressive action against the bully is generally not encouraged by school officials. Children and teens are encouraged to report bullying incidents to their teachers or parents or a responsible adult they trust.

You can also teach your kids safety strategies to face bullying situations off of school property. If there’s a risk of bullies pursuing your children when they are walking home from school, designate specific locations where they can go for protection, such as a local shop or friend’s house along the way. When possible, encourage your kids to walk with groups of friends when walking to and from school. Your children should always carry the phone numbers of trusted adults they can call for help in emergency situations.

Your kids should also be able to effectively recognize and identify bullying incidents as they arise. They should be able to clearly pinpoint who is threatening them, what action is being taken against them and what negative effect it has on them. Adults are more likely to take bullying incidents seriously if children can provide a clear account of the situation and explain the dangers they face at the hand of bullies. If other students are present during bullying incidents, children should be encouraged to reveal their names to confirm their side of the story. By knowing as many facts as possible about the situation, school officials will have a better idea of how to proceed.

As a parent, you may not be able to protect your children from every eventuality as they grow, but you can provide the encouragement and support they need to get through difficult situations and overcome them. Bullying presents many challenges for school age children and teens. With the help and support of teachers, family and friends, your kids can learn how to stand against bullying taunts, criticisms and harassment without succumbing to guilt or fear.

Few, if any, children and teens can handle the physical or verbal abuse of bullying on their own. Although no form of abuse should be tolerated, physical and sexual bullying are considered criminal acts in UK schools and should be reported immediately so the perpetrators can be dealt with by law. The more young people take a united stance against bullying along with their parents, teachers and local community, the greater the chance of curtailing this kind of abusive behavior in UK colleges and schools. The vision of creating a safe and inspiring academic environment where all UK children and teens can receive a quality education should be a major objective of our educational system.

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