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Intimidation: Statistics

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what steps he plans to take to encourage schools to (a) record all incidents of bullying and (b) report the statistics to their local authority; (146512)

(2) what progress is being made on the recommendation of Third Report of Session 2006-07 of the Education and Skills Committee, on Bullying, HC 85, on developing a system for collecting and recording incidents of bullying in schools;

(3) if his Department will commission a study of the long-term effects of bullying on those subject to it in schools;

(4) what indicators his Department plans to use to measure progress in tackling prejudice-driven bullying related to special educational needs and disabilities;

(5) what assessment he has made of the likely impact of the non statutory requirement upon schools to report incidents of bullying on the quality of the collected results.

As we make clear in the Government response to the Committee’s Third Report of Session 2006-07, my Department recommends as best practice that schools record all incidents of bullying and report these statistics to their local authority (LA). We will be strengthening this message in our revised overarching anti-bullying guidance and will ensure it is clear in the more specialist guidance we are preparing on homophobic and other forms of prejudice-driven bullying.

However, we do not believe that a statutory requirement on schools to record incidents of bullying would be effective. It would present significant logistical and bureaucratic difficulties for schools, and there would be substantial issues around consistency of definition, collection, and interpretation which would be expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming to overcome. We think it is better to leave this matter to the good judgment and common sense of teachers, who will have detailed guidance on how best to go about this.

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 of each LA’s services, and could lead to Ofsted looking more closely at anti-bullying practices in a particular authority’s joint area review (JAR). We are currently looking at how we might use data derived from the survey to inform future policy development.

The Department’s contract with the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) includes a specific research element, which is fulfilled by a senior researcher at Goldsmiths College and his team. In our response to the Education and Skills Select Committee’s report on bullying, we made clear that the ABA was planning a substantial piece of research into reactive anti-bullying strategies, and we believed this was the best way forward. Any other research projects will be determined in light of our ongoing policy priorities.

The Department does not monitor the progress of individual schools in addressing bullying at a local, regional or national level or, as my earlier answers make clear, collect statistics in this area. However our partners in the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) and National Strategies maintain close links with individual schools and authorities through their regional networks. We have flagged up that there is a need to tackle the bullying of children with SEN and disabilities in our guidance. The ABA and National Strategies work with schools to ensure effective measures are in place to prevent and tackle the bullying of these children. We have also asked the National Strategies to identify schools with weak and ineffective anti-bullying strategies and to provide challenge and support to these schools as appropriate.

Following the Government’s commitment to issue specific guidance on prejudice-driven bullying in the Schools White Paper ‘Higher Standards, Better Schools for All’, my Department produced well-received guidance in 2006 on tackling racist bullying, “Bullying around racism, religion and culture”. We will also be launching more specific guidance on how to prevent and tackle homophobic bullying later this year. We recognise there is a need for more specialist guidance to tackle the bullying of pupils with SEN and disabilities Once this is issued we will work with practitioners and with our partners in the field on a programme of dissemination to ensure schools across the country implement the guidance.

Our guidance to schools on tackling bullying has always been intentionally non-statutory. Schools need to determine an approach which best suits their local needs and circumstances, taking into account their pupil population and identified priorities. Schools are autonomous institutions, and we want them to retain the flexibility to establish a system of managing behaviour which best suits the needs of the local community they serve.