Schools and youth groups take part in Anti-Bullying Week
SCHOOLS and youth groups across Northern Ireland are taking part in this year's Anti-Bullying Week.
Under the theme Together We are Stronger, everyone is urged to think about what it means to have strength of character; how they can use their strength for good; and how they can empower parents and carers to work together with schools to tackle bullying.
More than 800 schools and youth groups were involved last year.
A Department of Education report found that 39 per cent of pupils in Year 6 and 29 per cent of pupils in Year 9 reported having experienced bullying.
Many cited skin colour, disability and religion as reasons for bullying.
The new Addressing Bullying in Schools Act, announced in May 2016, provides a legal definition of bullying in school. It also sets out the duties of boards of governors to take measures to prevent and record incidents of bullying.
Celine McStravick, chair of Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF), said the act should provide greater clarity and consistency on tacking bullying in schools.
She added it would also support "the collection of much needed data on how prevalent bullying is in our schools, what forms it takes and who is experiencing it".
NIABF has provided schools and youth groups with a free resource pack, which includes presentations, activity plans, project briefs and Anti-Bullying Week themed posters, all designed to help stimulate conversation and debate.
The assembly's education committee and Assembly Education Service have, meanwhile, launched a special interactive art initiative, as part of a range of committee activities, to highlight Anti-Bullying Week 2016.
Assembly members and school groups visiting Parliament Buildings this week are being asked to contribute to the artwork by cutting around a signed outline of their hand and attaching it to a canvas so as to `lend a hand'.
"It will, we hope, be a fun way of highlighting this very serious issue and to remind us all of our responsibilities in recognising and preventing bullying," said committee chairman Barry McElduff.