Fear of bullying on the way to and from school affects nearly a third of English pupils, a report reveals as anti-bullying week begins today.
Findings from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge found that 31% of English schoolchildren surveyed admitted to worries about anti-social behaviour during their journey to and from school.
This number is far greater than the 19% of worried children found across the whole of Europe, and will be a concern for children’s charities as they prepare for Anti-Bullying Week (Nov 14th-18th).
However, report author and Reader in Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin University, Stephen Moore, felt that the way English children are taught about bullying could be the reason they are so afraid, as 80% of the English children questioned admitted they had never encountered any trouble.
“Perhaps it is because there's a greater awareness, and while I am not wanting to criticise anti-bullying campaigns, the reality is there's a greater degree of worry than is warranted by reality,” he said.
“We don’t actually know if the campaigns cause ‘a lot of worry’, all we can say is that there are, relatively speaking, noticeably higher levels of concern amongst young people in the areas we studied,” he added.
“It might be campaigns, or it might be a reflection of the media coverage, or of our society.”
Around 4,000 youngsters were surveyed across eight European countries, with only Hungarian children indicating a higher level of worry than those in England.
The National Children’s Bureau’s Sue Steel, Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, welcomed the report, saying it was important to highlight that bullying did not stop at the school gates.
“By raising awareness of the issues, we can help children to understand that any form of bullying is unacceptable and they should turn for help to their parents and carers, other family members, friends, teachers and youth workers,” she said.
Parents will perhaps be surprised by Mr Moore’s findings, as another recent report, supported by the Anti-Bullying Alliance from Red Balloon and the National Centre for Social Research, indicated that just 18% of parents felt that bullying explained their child’s absence from school.
“We think that children ought to be encouraged to talk to their parents more about these issues and that parents ought to be taught about positive ways to respond,” said Mr Moore.
The report notes that young people travelling to and from school on public transport were most at risk from bullying, while unsurprisingly those who made the journeys with their parents were least likely to have problems.
Mr Moore suggested that training bus drivers to look out for signs of bullying would be a good way of helping to deal with the problem.
Schools naturally have an important role to play in tackling bullying, and Manchester City Council was keen to emphasise the measures it takes to ensure the city is a pleasant place to be educated.
Councillor Afzal Khan, Executive Member for Children's Services at Manchester City Council, said: “All of our schools have strong anti-bullying policies in place and work hard with pupils to combat bullying and to stop it from happening.”
“Bullying is not acceptable in any circumstances and the most important thing a pupil can do if they are subjected to it is to tell an adult so that the bullying can be tackled and stopped.”
But, while the high number of worried children will be a cause for concern, Mr Moore’s research did find some positives.
“I think this might be the main outcome of the research - we found that children are amazingly resilient in the way they dealt with problems and they looked for help and support to their friends,” he said.
To find out more about Anti-Bullying Week, visit http://www.antibullyingweek.co.uk/