Almost half of children were worried about returning to school following the school holidays due to bullying, a YouGov poll has found. With 10 million children going back to classes, the poll conducted for the Diana Award found that 40 percent were picked on to such an extent that it had taken its toll on their grades and even left some afraid to put their hands up in class.
Despite various laws and measures put in place to deal with bullying in schools, experts are warning that it has been “normalised” and is still a big problem.
“They way it is being dealt with is by children being put into isolation,” Dr Elizabeth Nassem, whose research at Birmingham City University looks into this said, “into detention, but they are not being asked what they have done wrong or why, the root causes are not being addressed,” she said. “We need to listen to the children.” Schools must “change their entire culture” she argues, since the hierarchical manner in which they operate, which sees children put into sets based on their abilities and grades, can encourage bullying. She added that fears of cyber bully are a “distraction” as during her research children have told her that “what bothers them is being face to face, sat in a classroom with the same bully on a daily basis.”
The data supports her point as the poll asked 1,003 secondary-age children and 51 percent were afraid to put their hands up while 40 percent said that they were picked on for their academic ability. Worryingly, 39 percent said that bullying had affected their grades while 38 percent had missed school because they were so afraid. Just over a fifth of students, 22 percent, said that it had become so severe that they were forced to change schools. While there are campaigns in place to combat bullying, around 70 percent of parents still think that head teachers had not done enough.
The anti-bullying campaign by the Diana Award was set up by Princes William and Harry in memory of their mother and has received support from over 20 celebrities who shared stories of their own in a bid to encourage students to come out and report it. These included footballer Rio Ferdinand who shared stories of his “racist abuse” and actress Tracy Ann-Oberman who experienced antisemitism including jokes about the Holocaust.
“There was a joke that used to go around about the Yids, how man Yids can you fit in a mini? Six million but they’ve all got to be in the ashtray…things like that,” she said.
Olympic medallist and two-time world champion diver Tom Daley said that his experience with bullying after coming home from the Beijing Olympics aged 14 almost kept him from continuing with sports. “They took the mick out of what I was wearing on the diving board, they would throw stuff at me at lunchtime. It became a thing that diving was becoming a burden,” he said.
Since it was launched in 2011, the Diana Award has trained as much as 28,000 pupils to be anti-bullying ambassadors to combat abuse in 2,500 schools around the country. Research has shown that where they had been introduced, they helped to reduce bullying, according to Alex Holmes, deputy chief executive of the Diana Award.
“Bullying is something we haven’t got a grip on as a country,” he said. “It’s a problem that we know won’t go away but there are things we can put in place that show you can make schools easier and happier places to be.”