School anti-bullying strategy should begin at home – Farrell

Parents are uniquely positioned to identify signs of bullying

Fine Gael TD for Dublin North, Alan Farrell, is calling on the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, to consider the launch of a public campaign to encourage parents to address issues around bullying with their children, as part of National Anti-Bullying week and in the run up to the Department’s National Bullying forum in May.

“I welcome the Department of Education’s upcoming forum on bullying in schools to be held in May 2012. Official department guidelines on bullying for schools have not been updated since 1993 due to a mandatory requirement on each school to have their own bullying policy. 

“I would strongly urge that, as part of this campaign, we encourage parents to engage with their children about the issue of bullying. Parents are uniquely positioned to identify signs of bullying in their children, be they the victim or the perpetrator. As a preventative measure, parents can be influential in terms of making their children aware of the negative impact of bullying.

“School bullying is not something that the education system can have a genuine impact on without the continuous support and vigilance of parents. Young children and teenagers are exposed to bullying through social media both in and outside of school hours at a time when teachers are faced with increased levels of responsibility and evolving curricula.

“I would urge the Minister for Education to launch a national campaign, consistent with expert guidelines, which would encourage parents to address the issue of bullying with their children of all ages. It is an informal and personal way to educate children on what bullying actually involves, and how it can impact the children around them.  It also opens up a discourse on bullying in the home, and may encourage parents to be vigilant and aware of the possibility that their child may either be a target or source of bullying at school. 

“It is important that we have a strategy inside and outside the classroom to detect and remove bullying in schools. If a child is a victim of bullying, it may be difficult to approach a teacher or parent out of fear or insecurity.  Similarly, parents may find it difficult to come to terms with the idea that their child may be at the root of the issue, which many teachers will identify as being a barrier to the implementation of anti-bullying strategies. Teachers are responsible for monitoring large groups of students at a time and it can be difficult to recognise a change in pattern or behaviour of each child when there is so much else going on.

“I commend the ISPCC and the Minister for Education for highlighting the necessity to address bullying in schools. I am confident that participation in the upcoming national anti-bullying forum is embraced by teachers and parents across the country and I hope that it will result in an updated and successful approach to making school life significantly easier for our students.”