The national director of the Anti-Bullying Centre (ABC), James O’Higgins Norman, said there had never been as much effort put towards combating the problem of bullying as there has been in recent years, but more needed to be done.
Mr O’Higgins Norman, who is also a senior lecturer in the Institute of Education at Dublin City University, was speaking after the launch of www.tacklebullying.ie, a new single point of contact for those affected by bullying and which includes an online forum where people can share experiences and discuss solutions.
The website is the first such online resource in Ireland and has dedicated sections for those experiencing bullying, as well as parents and teachers, and provides information regarding methods to deal with the problem, including online or cyberbullying.
The website was officially launched yesterday by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, who said it would prove to be an “invaluable resource”.
It is estimated that about 30% of schoolchildren have experienced some form of traditional bullying, either as victim, perpetrator or bystander, while about 15% have similarly been involved in some capacity in cyber-bullying.
Mr O’Higgins Norman said that while the numbers of people reporting bullying remained consistent, the response to the problem in some schools was “ad hoc” and there was a need for retraining of education professionals to ensure cases were dealt with in a better way.
“We receive calls every day at the Anti-Bullying Centre that would bring tears to your eyes, not just because of the bullying but because of the way it is dealt with,” he siad.
“There is a huge need to upskill teachers regarding how to deal with bullying. It’s ad hoc — some cases are dealt with really well and some are dealt with badly.
“Speaking as director of the ABC, I think it is time to roll out a national anti-bullying programme so all teachers and boards of management can be trained.”
He said a similar programme had been used in Norway and that such an initiative would guarantee a minimum standard as to how cases are dealt with and a minimum standard of skills and knowledge among those dealing with bullying.
He said that as far as the ABC was concerned there were sufficient laws available in cases that may warrant a criminal justice response, but that in the vast majority of cases the best approach was education.
Mr O’Higgins Norman also said that while there were many suggestions as to smartphone Apps and other technology strands to combat bullying, users typically tended to find a way around them, meaning re-educating those who bully was always likely to be a better response to the problem.
The launch of the anti-bullying website is part of the final phase of implementation of the Government’s action plan on bullying and Ms O’Sullivan said: “Bullying is not a problem that schools alone can tackle and it is incumbent on each and every one of us in the wider community to stand up to bullying.”
Additional funding has also been made available for the National Parents Councils (primary and post-primary) anti-bullying training programme for parents.