A new human rights education programme aimed at reducing bullying in primary schools is being introduced throughout the island of Ireland.
The cross-border initiative is effective in tackling the problem of bullying in schools, teachers from Ulster were told yesterday at a conference in Dublin.
Research into the Lift Off human rights programme - organised by Amnesty International and teaching unions, the Ulster Teachers' Union and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation - reported that the scheme had improved pupil behaviour and reduced bullying in all the participating primary schools.
The conference was being held just weeks after Anti-Bullying Week which aimed to raise awareness of the problem.
The Belfast Telegraph ran a series of articles to coincide with the week-long event - during which time the extent of bullying in schools became apparent.
In the past year, almost a quarter of all calls - over 12,272 - to Childline Northern Ireland have related to bullying.
Department of Education figures show 43% of primary school children and 29% from post-primaries in Northern Ireland perceive they have been bullied at least once, while Mencap has revealed that eight out of 10 Ulster children with a learning disability have been bullied, and six out of 10 children questioned had been physically hurt by bullies.
All the schools, from both sides of the border, which took part in the pilot scheme, reported that the initiative had helped children to understand the rights of others, to be more sensitive to the feelings of others and developed empathy, tolerance and mutual respect. Most schools reported that the programme had helped children to develop conflict resolution skills.
The Lift Off programme is being made available to every primary school in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
David Stinson, principal of Ardstraw Primary School in Co Tyrone and one of the facilitators at the conference, said: "Human rights is an aspect of the revised curriculum which has not yet received much attention.
"In the past, adults have been often reluctant to address the issues dealt with by human rights education but in our work we have found our pupils to be very aware of problems such as racism, sectarianism, bullying and unfair trade and to have a very strong objection to ill-treatment of any individual or group of people.
"Education is about much more than academic qualifications and, if we want to build a better society, we have to educate our children about the mistakes of the past, and the present, which lead to conflict."