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True scale of bullying in schools to be exposed by new laws

The Cúl Heroes visited Christ the Reedemer PS in Lagmore as part of Anti-Bullying Week. Picture by Mal McCann

THE true scale of bullying in schools is to be exposed by new legislation to come before Stormont.

Schools are to be ordered for the first time to record all incidents, education minister John O'Dowd has confirmed.

There is no requirement to report every occurrence and no detailed figures for primary or secondary schools exist.

While there are about 200 suspensions every year for bullying, the full extent of the problem is said to be much greater.

The new bill was given the green light as Anti-Bullying Week drew to a close on Friday.

Schools organised activities around the theme What Bullying Means To Me.

On Friday children from Christ the Redeemer PS in Lagmore welcomed the GAA's Cúl Heroes - footballer Finn Macúl and hurler Cúl Cullen.

The pair awarded anti-bullying ambassadors certificates to pupils as part of a day of GAA activities designed to beat bullying.

Mr O'Dowd said the new bill would be introduced as early as November 30 so legislation could be enacted within this assembly mandate.

The legislation has three main objectives: to provide a legal definition of bullying; to introduce a requirement for schools to record all incidents of bullying; and to require boards of governors to have specific responsibility for anti-bullying policy and practice within schools.

"Bullying is a complex issue with no single, easy solution however, we all have a part to play in creating a society, and an education system, in which bullying behaviour is always challenged, and dealt with effectively, as soon as it rears its head," Mr O'Dowd said.

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