10 bullied pupils take complaints to top each week

Clodagh Sheehy

Parents are making an average of 10 complaints a week to the Department of Education about bullying in schools.

The figure takes no account of complaints made within the schools themselves, which do not have to be reported on to the department.

In the first four months of this year, parents went over the heads of the school boards of management and lodged 160 complaints directly with the Education Department. This compares with 438 complaints for the whole of last year.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan, who has released the figures, said she is anxious to support schools in tackling the problem and that a number of supports have been put in place.

All schools have to have a Code of Behaviour, which should include provisions for dealing with serious breaches of discipline and outline the school's policy on suspension and expulsion.

The minister, in response to questions from Deputies Billy Timmins and Charles Flanagan, stressed that there was no obligation for bullying incidents to be reported to her department other than where a student was suspended or expelled and wanted to appeal the decision. Her department did, however, receive a number of complaints directly from parents. In these cases the department's role was "to provide advice to parents and students on the operation of the schools' complaints procedures".

Anti-bullying education, she added, was now a compulsory part of the curriculum at primary and post-primary level.

Where complaints related to child abuse, child safety or the protection of children, her department would deal with the issues.


The Nationwide Study of Bullying in Irish first and second level schools, conducted by Dr Mona O'Moore in Trinity College, Dublin, showed that 31pc of primary students and 16pc of secondary students have been bullied at some time.

About 200,000 children are at risk of suffering the ill effects of bullying. Seven in 10 primary school children who were bullied said it happened in the playground while 31pc said it happened in the classroom.

At secondary level the most common place to be bullied was in the classrooms, with 47pc of victimised children complaining that it happened there.