As a result of the recent Education and Skills Committee enquiry into bullying, and subsequent report, and an independent evaluation of the Department’s work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the Department is in the process of assessing its overall strategy of work to identify upcoming priorities and will shortly be competitively tendering for elements of work to be carried out in the next financial year. One of these elements will be research into bullying. This will look at what strategies are most effective in tackling bullying.
The Department currently commissions Goldsmiths College London, through the ABA, to provide research aligned with policy needs. In the last financial year, the projects undertaken on behalf of the Department included reviews of disability and bullying and on bullying in the community. Research projects this year will look at how schools can best support young people displaying bullying behaviours; young people at risk of anti-social behaviour; and bullying of looked-after children. The Department has also undertaken research with young people on the subject of cyberbullying to inform and develop key, relevant messages for our planned digital information campaign.
The Department currently has no plans to collect statistical data from schools or conduct a formal audit on how schools respond to bullying. As stated in the Department’s recent response to the Education and Skills Committee report on bullying, there are logistical difficulties involved in asking schools to record incidents of bullying and their responses to incidents. In particular, there are issues around consistency of definition and how bullying might be reported if it continues over a significant period of time. There is also a question of how we might interpret an increase in reported incidents, which might occur as the result of an improved anti-bullying policy and new focus on openness. These complications could lead to more bureaucracy and greater workload for schools.
The Department will continue to recommend in its revised anti-bullying guidance that schools record incidents of bullying and report the statistics to their local authority. The guidance will further advise that the LA should analyse the information gathered from schools to identify any issues of particular concern. This will enable the authority to be better informed in the development of appropriate strategies to tackle bullying across its area. The data will also enable LAs to support and challenge schools in their duties to promote the welfare of pupils.
In addition, the forthcoming “Tellus 2” survey should give us more comprehensive data on young people’s experiences of bullying in schools. It will be an annual survey (starting this year), covering all LAs. Data will be considered by Ofsted in their annual performance assessment (APA) of each LA’s services, and could lead to Ofsted looking more closely at anti-bullying practices in a particular authority.
We are currently looking at how we might use data derived from the survey to inform future policy development. We are also working with the National Strategies to undertake some localised auditing of how schools deal with bullying. The National Strategies are identifying secondary schools with weak or ineffective anti-bullying policies and practice. Regional advisers and local authority consultants will provide support and challenge to these schools, working with them to embed good practice, as well as development of appropriate intervention strategies at both staff and pupil level. Progress on this work will be monitored and reported to the Department on a regular basis.