At least three children in every primary school fourth class are being bullied every week, and it is having a significant effect on their education.
The findings in a survey of 4,500 Irish 10-year-olds during international tests show that 12% say they were bullied at school “about weekly”. This means three children in the average 24-pupil class say they experienced three of the following six bullying behaviours once or twice a month:
* Being made fun of or called names
* Being left out of games or activities by students
* Having lies spread about them
* Having something stolen
* Being hit or hurt by student(s)
* Being made to do things they did not want to do by students.
Another 25%, or six children in the average class, have a monthly experience of at least three of the bullying behaviours.
The figures show regular bullying in school is less common in Ireland than in most other countries, with about two thirds saying they are hardly ever bullied.
The results were published this month as part of the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement tests in reading, maths, and science.
“There is growing evidence that bullying in schools is on the rise, especially with the emergence of cyberbullying, and that bullying does have a negative impact on students’ educational achievement,” the group said.
The average Irish 10-year-old scored 552 points in reading, and for children who are almost never bullied it was 563. For those bullied monthly, the average score dropped to 545, but it fell to 510 among those who are bullied weekly.
Differences in maths and science scores are almost identical, falling by more than 50 points when comparing pupils who are bullied weekly to pupils who are almost never bullied.
Dr Eemer Eivers from the Educational Research Centre at St Patrick’s College in Dublin, who led the study in Ireland, said a 53-point difference in reading scores is huge. “That’s the kind of difference any teacher would identify fairly quickly. Most studies have found that children who are bullied perform less well.”
The general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Sheila Nunan, said: “Thousands of teacher hours are spent every year investigating allegations, monitoring situations, following up on cases, and meeting parents and pupils. Teachers are committed to addressing this difficult and complex situation that arises in all schools.”
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