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Shock level of bullying of Northern Ireland's special needs pupils

By Kathryn Torney

Children with disabilities and special educational needs experience high levels of bullying at schools in Northern Ireland, according to a new report.

More than 900 pupils with special needs across Ulster contributed to the It’s Good to Listen report, launched yesterday at the Ramada Hotel in Belfast.

The project was undertaken by the five education and library boards, the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) to examine pupils’ attitudes to school and the extent of their participation and inclusion in school life.

Almost 60% of Key Stage 2 pupils (Primary 5, 6 and 7) reported experiencing bullying behaviour, compared to 55% of Key Stage 3 pupils (Years 8, 9 and 10) and 45% of Key Stage 4 pupils (Year 11 and 12).

At KS2 the bullying behaviour was more likely to be physical (being hit or pushed) or being left out on purpose.

Older pupils were more likely to have had other pupils tell lies about them or have things taken from them.

CCMS chief executive Donal Flanagan said: “We have said time and time again that the voice of the child is of paramount importance.

“This survey has given one group of children within our education system the opportunity to tell us how it is for them,” he added.

Stanton Sloan, chief executive of the South Eastern Education and Library Board, said: “We have to listen and seriously consider what our children and young people have said to us through this report. High levels of bullying were reported and being bullied was most clearly associated with pupils who had social, emotional and behavioural problems.

“The type of bullying behaviour differed between age groups with physical bullying more likely to be experienced by primary school pupils.”

The survey was carried out in 145 primary schools.

Professor Bernard Cullen, chair of the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards, said: “The publication of this report is the culmination of work undertaken collaboratively between the community, voluntary, trade union and education sectors.

“It is an extremely innovative project which is likely to generate international interest.”

The report, including a child-friendly version is available at www.staffcom.org.uk .

For more information on tackling bullying visit NiDirect

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