Survey on school bullying - Results

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How prevalent is bullying in Europe’s schools? What strategies are used to tackle it? What about online bullying through social media? The findings of our latest survey show that schools are active in meeting the challenge of bullying behaviour.

Bullying is “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.” It can be physical, verbal or psychological, it can happen face to face or in cyberspace.

Although bullying can take place in and out of school, many schools recognise that they can take steps to tackle bullying. For example, they might train and support teachers to have a constructive dialogue with students involved and to understand the possible reasons for their behaviour and ways to self-manage it. Similar conversations with friends and parents may also be had. To try to prevent bullying, a teacher might engage their whole class in conflict resolution role play within a safe space as one approach to developing empathy and other social skills.

Research shows that whole-school approaches where pupils, parents and professionals work collaboratively to establish inclusive environments can reduce incidences of bullying.

The survey on school bullying was open on School Education Gateway from 25 March to 12 May and gathered a total of 515 responses.


Results (N=515)

1. In your school or a school you know, during the last school year, how often did you hear about a pupil who was bullied?

Poll on school bullying - Graph 1

According to the 515 survey respondents, bullying takes place once or twice a month in almost half (47%) of respondents’ schools or a school they know and bullying happens regularly in close to 14% of the respondents’ schools. In 35% of respondents’ schools, bullying is rare (32%) or never takes place (3%).

2. When pupils are bullied in your school or a school you know, what actions are taken? Choose all relevant options.

  • There is a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, therefore the bully is punished immediately when the case is observed or revealed
  • The designated anti-bullying staff member (trained teacher, counsellor, social worker) resolves and raises awareness of the issue
  • The school or class teacher dedicates time in the curriculum for anti-bullying education sessions with all students
  • Those involved are invited to a dialogue where they can explain what happened
  • The parents of the students involved are invited to a meeting with the teacher or school head
  • The teacher initiates a dialogue or resolution session between the bully and the victim
  • The school counsellor is invited to talk to the class in order to raise awareness of bullying
  • There is no agreed policy on bullying, so teachers are left to deal with it by themselves

Poll on school bullying - Graph 2

Respondents indicated that a range of actions are taken by the school to deal with incidences of bullying, such as a dialogue between the parties involved (66%), a meeting with the parents of the students involved (63%) and a teacher-initiated resolution session between bully and victim (45%).

The most frequently mentioned longer-term actions are dedicated time in the curriculum for anti-bullying education sessions with all students (mentioned by 43% of respondents), a designated and trained staff member to deal with bullying issues and raise awareness (35%), and a school counsellor invited to talk to the class in order to raise awareness of bullying (30%).

Almost one in four schools (24%) are reported to have a zero-tolerance approach to bullying while, at the other extreme, one in five schools have no agreed policy, leaving teachers to deal with the issue by themselves.

3. In your school or a school you know, which of the following strategies are used to prevent and/or address bullying?

  • Lessons using resources specifically addressing bullying, e.g. videos, workshops and role play
  • Teacher training on how to address bullying
  • Conflict resolution training for pupils
  • School counsellor sessions with pupils
  • Emphasis on social and emotional learning
  • Increased school supervision
  • No strategies are implemented in the school to prevent bullying

Poll on school bullying - Graph 3

Again, respondents indicated that their school or a school they know adopted a variety of anti-bullying strategies. The most frequently mentioned strategy, mentioned by 51% of participants, is lessons using resources specifically addressing bullying, followed by school counsellor sessions with pupils (38%), increased school supervision (33%), teacher training to address bullying (31%), an emphasis on social and emotional learning (29%) and conflict resolution training for pupils (27%). Consistent with the previous question, almost 20% of respondents indicated that there are no strategies to prevent bullying in their school.

4. What would help schools to foster a more inclusive anti-bullying environment? Rank the items according to order of importance, where 1 is the most helpful action schools can take.

  • S1: Support in creating, adapting and finding relevant educational resources such as videos, stories, etc.
  • S2: Teacher training on how to prevent, recognise and deal with various forms of bullying
  • S3: Support and collaboration with parents in order to include anti-bullying strategies in the school
  • S4: Flexibility in school curricula, e.g. dedicated time for anti-bullying education or inclusion of the topic in various subjects

Poll on school bullying - Graph 4

Opinions vary in relation to the most helpful strategies to foster a more inclusive anti-bullying environment in schools.

While all strategies presented were indicated as helpful to some extent, teacher training on how to prevent, recognise and deal with various forms of bullying is ranked first and seems to be considered the most helpful strategy (49%). Only 6% ranked it least helpful.

Other strategies were also ranked high: flexibility in school curricula, e.g. dedicated time for anti-bullying education or inclusion of the topic in various subjects (20% indicated this as most helpful) and support and collaboration with parents in order to include anti-bullying strategies in the school (18% indicated this as most helpful).

The least helpful strategy according to almost half of respondents was to further support schools in creating, adapting and finding relevant educational resources such as videos and stories (45%).

5. What are the strategies in your school or a school you know to address cyberbullying?

  • Specific online safety lessons: practical ways to manage online identities and the risks of posting personal information; how to behave ethically online, etc.
  • Raising awareness (school talks, information for parents) about the benefits and risks of online interaction and social media
  • Strategies to deal with student cases of cyberbullying and their resolution
  • There are no actions in my school in order to address cyberbullying

Poll on school bullying - Graph 5

Online bullying presents additional challenges for schools. According to the survey respondents, raising awareness – through school talks or information for parents – about the benefits and risks of online interaction and social media is the most common strategy used in their school in order to address cyberbullying (65%). Tagging some way behind are specific online safety lessons with practical ways to manage online identities (36%) and strategies to deal with cases of cyberbullying and their resolution (27%). Over one in four respondents (27%) indicated that there are no actions taken in order to address cyberbullying in their school.

Conclusion

The survey shows that occasional bullying incidents occur in almost half of the respondents’ schools or schools they know (47%). If we add to these the bullying incidents that take place on a regular basis (14%), then we see that schools are very often challenged by the bullying phenomenon and seek ways to address it.

A mix of approaches is used by schools to deal with individual cases of bullying. These approaches include resolution meetings and dialogue between the pupils involved, as well as the involvement of their parents. Schools also adopt longer-term actions and approaches such as classroom-based approaches that include sessions with the school counsellor, curricula-based intervention or a zero-tolerance policy in the school. Nevertheless, 20% of respondents indicated that there is no agreed policy in the school and teachers must tackle the issue as they see fit.

Looking at strategies to prevent bullying, a mix of approaches is again used in respondents’ schools, including classroom-based strategies such as dedicated educational resources, conflict resolution and training of pupils; staff-based strategies such as teacher training and involvement of experts, e.g. school counsellor; and increased school supervision. Nevertheless, almost 20% of respondents indicated that no strategies are implemented in the school in order to prevent bullying.

As far as cyberbullying is concerned, existing strategies range from prevention through awareness-raising and targeted lessons to a more case-based approach that addresses cyberbullying when it occurs. Nevertheless, almost 30% of respondents indicated that no actions are taken in their school to prevent cyberbullying.

Although various actions and strategies are already implemented in schools in order to prevent and tackle different forms of bullying, teacher training on how to prevent, recognise and deal with various forms of bullying is seen as the most helpful strategy to foster a more inclusive anti-bullying environment. A whole-school approach, focusing on providing teachers with the right skills and tools to address bullying, together with targeted educational resources and clear school policies, can help to better address and prevent cases of bullying.


Annex: Role of respondents

Poll on school bullying - Graph 6